Entering into the final weeks of the regular season, while teams are gearing up for post-season play, it’s time for those of us in the media to start bantering around names for Coach of the Year honors.
Keep an eye and an ear out for these five Division I Women’s coaches below.[divider]
Suzie McConnell-Serio – BR-36 University of Pittsburgh (18-8, 8-6)
As she entered her first season at the helm of the Pittsburgh program in 2013, Suzie McConnell-Serio was taking over a team without a conference win in the prior season and 20 plus losses.
Fast forward to the present.
The Panthers enter the final two weeks of the regular season 18-9, and 8-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference following a tough loss to BR-25 Syracuse (20-8, 10-5). Assured of at least a spot in the WNIT, with a good run through the ACC tournament the Panthers can look for a possible NCAA berth.
McConnell-Serio, a two-time Olympian and the NCAA’s all-time assist leader, has the Panthers turn-around in full gear just two wins shy of a twenty win season.[divider]
Joe McKeown – BR-29 Northwestern University (20-6, 10-5)
The Wildcats victory over BR-21 Nebraska last week marks the first time in 20 years a Northwestern women’s basketball team has reached the 20 victory mark, and the first Wildcat winning season in the Big Ten since 1997.
As one of the winningest coaches in NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball, McKeown now has 618 career victories after the Wildcats knocked of BR-80 Wisconsin in overtime, making him one of the leaders in career wins amongst active Division I head coaches.
In his six years at the helm of the program, the Wildcats have accumulated more wins (88) than the previous 11 years before and have qualified for the post season in three of the last five seasons.[divider]
Scott Rueck – BR-11 Oregon State University (25-2, 15-1)
Beaver’s Head Coach Scott Rueck has been behind the rapid turnaround of the women’s basketball program at Oregon State, which last season resulted in one of the greatest seasons in school history.
Finishing 24-11 overall and tying the school record for wins, the Beavers finished with a 13-5 conference record, tied for second in the final Pacific-12 standings. Oregon State also advanced to its first NCAA Tournament since 1996 and won its first game in the tournament since 1995.
Not resting on the success of 2013-14 season, Rueck’s Beavers just kept rolling.
This season, with their recent win over BR-119 Utah, the Beavers surpassed the 25-win mark and clinched a share of the Pac-12 title; both firsts for the OSU program.
As a finalist last season for the inaugural Pat Summitt Trophy for the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year, Rueck certainly looks to be a contender this season as well.[divider]
Mark Trakh – BR-214 New Mexico State University (18-7, 11-1)
Entering his fourth season as Head Coach of the New Mexico State women’s basketball program, Mark Trakh had guided the Aggies to 31 wins in three seasons.
For 2013-14 season, Trakh led the Aggies to an 11-20 overall record, going 7-9 in conference play. In this season’s pre-season polls, the NMSU squad had been tagged for the fifth spot in the Western Athletic Conference.
So far this season, the Aggies have lost just one conference contest, and with their last victory, a 61-60 nail-biter over BR-270 Grand Canyon, they have clinched a share of the WAC title for the first time in their 10 years since joining the conference.
Should Trakh and the Aggies continue their success through the WAC tournament, they could nab their first NCAA tournament berth in over twenty five years.[divider]
Dawn Staley – BR-3 South Carolina (25-1, 13-1)
With last season’s 29-win effort, that included the program’s first Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Head Coach Dawn Staley has the Gamecocks rolling as the post season gets closer on the horizon.
With the recent Gamecock win over BR-45 Arkansas, USC has secured their fourth straight 25 win season since Staley took the helm seven years ago.