Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Penn State Nittany Lions
Coquese Washington, who helped lead Notre Dame to the 2001 NCAA Championship, was introduced as the fifth head coach of the Penn State women's basketball program on April 23, 2007. Washington is the first female African-American head coach in Penn State history.
"I'm extremely proud and grateful to continue representing Penn State University and this wonderful basketball program. The support we have received from the University community and our administration, especially President Spanier and Tim Curley continually reminds me of why I consider my role as head coach at Penn State to be a truly wonderful position."
The Lady Lions returned to the national stage in Washington's fourth year with a second-place finish in the Big Ten regular season standings, a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Penn State tallied its most victories since the 2003-04 campaign and 23rd 20-win season with a 25-10 overall record and an 11-5 mark in conference play. The Lady Lions worked their way back in the "Big Dance" for the first time since 2004-05 and advanced to the second round for the first time in seven years with a win over Dayton in the first round in front of a raucous Bryce Jordan Center crowd. After a remarkable season in the books and steps toward returning the Lady Lions to national prominence, Washington was selected as the 2011 BCA Female Coach of the Year.
Penn State was a dominating force from the perimeter as the Lady Lions tied the school record with 228 three-pointers and led NCAA Division I from deep with a .415 three-point field goal percentage. Pacing the Lady Lions from downtown was Maggie Lucas, who broke the Big Ten three-pointers record with 112 triples to go along with a .426 shooting percentage. For her efforts, Lucas was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year while breaking the Penn State freshman season scoring record (552 pts.). Additionally with Washington's guidance, Alex Bentley became the 11th different player in school history to take home first team All-Big Ten accolades after finishing second in the conference in assists. After outstanding seasons, both Lucas and Bentley were invited to USA Basketball World University Games Trials.
Washington was also instrumental in the development of center Nikki Greene, who earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive team and All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades after recording 75 blocks on the year. Julia Trogele also claimed All-Big Ten honorable mention honors to close out her career.
The third season under Washington saw the Lady Lions return to the postseason for the first time since 2004-05 with a WNIT berth. The Lions earned their most overall wins (17) and conference wins (8) since the 2004-05 campaign en route to a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten. Penn State picked up a pair of wins over ranked opponents in #15/15 Pittsburgh and #20/23 Michigan State.
Washington led Tyra Grant to back-to-back first team All-Big Ten honors and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America accolades in her senior season. Grant capped off her career by being selected by the Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the WNBA Draft. The four-time all-conference pick left Penn State third in school history in scoring with 2,044 points. Washington also guided freshman Bentley to third team All-Big Ten honors, as well as a unanimous selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Once again, Washington and the Lady Lions garnered one of the top recruiting classes in the country, finishing 22nd on the ESPN/HoopGurlz recruiting chart. The class includes just the second McDonald's High School All-American in Penn State history in Lucas, WBCA High School All-American Ariel Edwards and All-State selection Talia East.
In Washington's second season, the Lady Lions moved up three positions in the Big Ten standings, finishing in a tie for seventh place. Under Washington's guidance in 2008-09, Grant became the 10th different player in school history to earn first team All-Big Ten honors. Grant was also a semifinalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award. Additionally, Brianne O'Rourke closed out her career with All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades and left Penn State as one of just six players in school history with 1,000 points and 500 assists.
Washington's second recruiting class was rated in the Top 20 by many publications, peaking at No. 10 by "Blue Star Basketball." The four-player class featured a pair of All-Americans in Greene and Bentley, as well as All-State performers Gizelle Studevent and Marisa Wolfe.
In May 2009, Washington's protégés Grant and Greene were invited to the USA Basketball Trials for the World University Games and U19 World Championships, respectively.
In her first season at the helm, Washington and the Lady Lions picked up two nationally-televised wins on ESPN and CBS, downed two nationally-ranked foes and took home the 25th regular-season tournament crown in program history.
The Coquese Washington era started in style as the Lady Lions won their first three games of the season, including a win over #20/21 Pittsburgh, to claim the WBCA Classic title. Just three weeks later, Washington guided the Lady Lions to their first ever win over perennial contender and 10th-ranked Duke in the inaugural Big Ten/ACC Challenge, a game that was televised on ESPN2. The Lady Lions also appeared on CBS, earning a road win over Michigan State to kickoff the New Year.
Additionally, Washington was tabbed the "Rising Star" in the coaching ranks in a vote of the members of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) during the 2007-08 campaign. Washington was also instrumental in helping Kam Gissendanner sign a free agent contract with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks. Washington came to Happy Valley after eight seasons as an associate head coach and assistant coach under Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, her alma mater. During Washington's eight years on the bench, Notre Dame amassed a 188-69 record with eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including four Sweet Sixteen runs and a National Championship in 2001.
One of the top recruiters in the country, Washington was instrumental in helping the Irish to secure eight consecutive Top 25 recruiting classes, according to "Blue Star Index," a feat only accomplished by two other programs in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee). In addition to recruiting, Washington served as the academic liaison and was also responsible for developing Notre Dame's non-conference schedule and assisting with scouting reports and practice planning.
"Recruiting is the life-blood of our profession. You have to continue to get good players in here and get out on the recruiting trail and find great student-athletes. That is what this program has done in the past, and we will continue to find student-athletes who understand how special it is to be a Lady Lion and what a unique and wonderful opportunity it is to be educated at Penn State. We are looking for players who want to take the challenge on of restoring this program to national prominence."
During her tenure at Notre Dame, Washington coached five All-Americans and had seven players that were drafted into the WNBA. Washington, in her role as the guards coach, was directly responsible for developing three All-Americans and two Frances Naismith Pomeroy Award winners for the nation's top player 5-8 or under, including Niele Ivey and Megan Duffy. Washington also directed Alicia Ratay, who is the NCAA's career three-point field goal percentage leader.
Washington not only had a reputation at Notre Dame for recruiting and developing top talent, but her scouting reports and game day preparation were second to none. While with the Fighting Irish, Washington was responsible for the scouting reports in wins over nationally-ranked opponents such as USC, Ohio State, Boston College, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech. She was also responsible for a successful scouting report in the 2001 NCAA Championship game against Purdue in which the Irish downed the Boilermakers, 68-66, to win their first-ever title.
Washington was a four-year starting point guard for Notre Dame under McGraw and was the team captain on Notre Dame's first-ever NCAA Tournament team. She was a two-time All-Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) selection and led Notre Dame to three MCC Tournament titles. Washington led the team in steals in each of her four seasons and was tops on the squad in assists three times. Washington is first on UND's all-time steals per game list (2.7), second in career steals (307), fifth in assists (554), 10th in three-pointers made (82) and 10th in minutes per game (27.6).
The epitome of a student-athlete, Washington graduated from Notre Dame in 1992, a full year ahead of schedule, with a bachelor's degree in history. She went on to attain "Double Domer" status in 1997 after earning her Juris Doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School.
Washington juggled finishing her law degree with the start of her professional basketball career. She returned to the hardwood as a professional in 1997-98, playing for the ABL's Portland Power before spending a two-year stint with the WNBA's New York Liberty (1998-99). Washington moved to Houston for the 2000 season, where she played an instrumental role in leading the Comets to the WNBA title. She had a solid season in 2001 with the Comets and Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor, finishing ninth in the WNBA in assists and fourth in steals as Houston earned its fifth consecutive playoff berth. Washington started the 2002 campaign with Houston before being traded to the Indiana Fever at the midway point of the season. Washington guided the Fever to their first-ever playoff berth and became the first player in WNBA history to lead three different teams to the postseason. She finished her professional career in 2003 as a member of the Fever.
"The experience of playing in the WNBA is one that is just like a dream come true, to be able to play in that league and to say that I did it is something that I will always remember. I really enjoyed the opportunity to play with the world's best players. When you start looking at some of the greatest players to ever play women's basketball, I got a chance to play with them and against them."
Utilizing her law degree, Washington was a central figure in helping create the WNBA Players Association (WNBPA), serving as the founding president of the WNBPA from 1999 until 2001. She also served as the Executive Vice President of the WNBPA from 2001 until her retirement in 2003. Washington led negotiations for the association's first collective bargaining agreement as the association's president, and as the executive vice president was a mainstay in the negotiations for the league's second collective bargaining agreement, which brought about the first free agency system in women's professional sports.
In addition to assisting with the efforts of the WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State to raise money and awareness for breast cancer, Washington created Coquese's Drive for the Women's Resource Center. The first three Coquese's Drives raised more than $28,300 for the Centre County Women's Resource Center to aid in the fight against domestic violence.
Washington is currently serving on the 29-member WBCA Board of Directors, where she is the Treasurer of the Executive Committee. Washington is also a member of the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Selection Committee.
A standout at Central High School in Flint, Mich., Washington was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in December 2009.
A native of Flint, Mich., Washington and her husband, Raynell Brown, have a son, Quenton (6), and a daughter, Rhaiyna (2). They reside in Port Matilda, Pa.