has introduced Coquese Washington as head women's
basketball coach, turning the established program over to a
career assistant without head coaching experience.
replaces Rene Portland, who went 606-236 at Penn
State in a 27-year career but stepped down in March a
month after she and the university settled a lawsuit
by a former player who claimed Portland had a
successful basketball player at Notre Dame, had been an
assistant to Irish head coach Muffet McGraw for eight years
before getting hired Monday at Penn State. The
announcement capped what she described as a whirlwind
courtship that spanned just over a week.
''When you hear
the name Penn State, your eyes are going to get big, and
you think, Wow,'' Washington said at a news
conference at Beaver Stadium. ''There's something wrong with
your heart if it's beating right.''
for the Irish from 1989 to 1993, helping the women's
team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 1992.
She went on to play in the now-defunct ABL and the
WNBA, where she helped the Houston Comets win the
title in 2000 and served as the first president of the
league's Players Association.
''We think she
just fit very well with Penn State,'' athletic director
Tim Curley said. ''We have a certain thing here--certain
people can do well here. We have certain values to
live by.... It's all about fit.''
McGraw lead Notre Dame to the national title in 2001
and was instrumental in developing the Irish guards, which
would fit with the ''Point Guard U.'' image that
Portland established at Penn State. Washington is also
known as a successful recruiter.
''It is hard to
keep such talented assistants from moving into the head
coaching positions, and we're grateful we had the chance to
enjoy Coquese's abilities for as long as we did,''
McGraw said in a statement.
she was contacted just more than a week ago by Penn State
and that the Lady Lions job was the only position she was
So with her
husband, 2-year-old son, and mother looking on, Washington
smiled proudly as she was presented with a number 1 Lady
Lions jersey. She was eager to get to work in the
corner office Portland occupied while leading Penn
State to 21 NCAA tournament appearances in her tenure.
This past season,
Portland became the ninth women's basketball coach to
win 600 games at one school. But the team had slipped to
13-16 in 2005-2006--the Lady
Lions' first losing season in 33 years--and finished
15-16 in 2006-2007.
Portland was also
dogged by allegations from former player Jennifer
In a December
2005 lawsuit Harris accused Portland of ''humiliating,
berating, and ostracizing'' her and claimed she was told she
needed to look more feminine. The suit alleged
Portland tried to force Harris, who says she is not
gay, to leave the team.
investigated and threatened to fire Portland for any future
violation of the school's nondiscrimination policy. She was
fined $10,000 by the university and ordered to take
professional development ''devoted to diversity and
maintained that Harris's departure was related purely to
groups, though, pointed to comments Portland made about
homosexuality dating back to 1986 as signs of long-term
concerns with the former coach.
''I think the
university has already tried to show its respect for all
people. That will continue,'' school president Graham
Spanier said. ''We think with our new coach, who is
strongly committed to making sure that all players
live up to their potential and look ahead and stand behind
the university values...things will be just fine.'' (AP)