Arizona's Joan Bonvicini Nears 600 Career Wins
Jan. 17, 2007
Winningest active coaches at NCAA Division I schools through Jan. 15)
Coach, present school Years Wins1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee 33 9292. Jody Conradt, Texas 38 8953. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers 36 7594. Sylvia Rhyne Hatchell, N. Carolina 32 7365. *-Kay Yow, North Carolina State 35 6936. Rene Portland, Penn State 31 6907. Tara VanDerveer, Stanford 28 6748. Andy Landers, Georgia 28 6719. Theresa Grentz, Illinois 33 66510. Robin Selvig, Montana 29 66011. Debbie Ryan, Virginia 30 64412. Jim Foster, Ohio State 29 62113. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut 22 60314. Cindy Russo, Florida International 30 60215. Joan Bonvicini, Arizona 28 598
* - On leave of absence.
By Dick Rockne
Seeing Joan Bonvicini clutching a rolled-up program while coaching the University of Arizona women's basketball team has become a familiar sight to fans and foes in the Pac-10 Conference.
So, too, has the sight of Bonvicini walking off the court after another Wildcat victory.
Now in her 16th season at Arizona, Bonvicini is getting close to achieving for herself a significant milestone while giving the Pac-10 a second member of an exclusive club of 15 Division I active coaches who have to their credit 600 coaching victories.
Stanford's Tara VanDerveer ranks No. 7 on the list with 674 victories in 27-plus seasons as a head coach. Bonvicini, also in her 28th year as a head coach, is at 598 and counting going into weekend games at home against USC and UCLA.
'I'm really happy about getting close, but honestly right now it's about just winning each game because obviously we've struggled,'' said Bonvicini, whose present Wildcat team has been slow to develop in large part because of injuries.
But if anyone can elevate the Wildcats from also-rans to contenders it is Bonvicini, who had a record of 325-70 (82 percent) in 12 seasons as head coach at Long Beach State (1979-1991) and is 273-182 at Arizona, where she has experienced only four losing seasons in 15 years.
'A lot of coaches coach a lot of years and don't achieve that kind of success,'' said Charli Turner Thorne, head coach at Arizona's arch rival, Arizona State. 'Joan obviously is a Hall of Fame-caliber coach. She has won consistently throughout her career, coached a lot of great players and developed a lot of players that people didn't know about.
'I think it's tremendous for her and her program and the Pac-10 to have a coach of her magnitude in our Conference.'
To win 600 games in 28 years means a coach has to average more than 21 wins per season.
'She's so doggone competitive,'' said Washington coach June Daugherty. 'She's a great teacher ... a great recruiter. This is a person who is so passionate about the game ... and about the game of women's basketball improving and the Pac-10 improving. She's one of those people who really cares about the game.'
Bonvicini credits others for her success.
'I've been very fortunate to have been associated with some great players and some terrific assistant coaches -- many, many people involved in my life and my career who have had a great impact,'' she said. 'There have been some unbelievable highs. And I'm appreciative. It's been fun and it's been an honor to have had an impact on so many people's lives.'
Surprise player of the year?
During her first three seasons at Oregon State, Casey Nash scored a total of 561 points, which worked out to a modest average of 6.3 per game. This year, the 6-foot-1 senior guard already has scored 306 points, enough for a Pac-10-leading average of 20.4 per game.
How could this be? How could the former Casey Bunn - she and former Oregon State men's basketball player J.S. Nash were married Aug. 27, 2005 - go from also ran to superstar in less than a year.
Turns out it was all by design.
According to Oregon State's second-year coach, LaVonda Wagner, it was about this time last season when she designated Nash, from Stayton, Ore., for a significant role this season because she was destined to be the most experienced player scheduled to return to a young, inexperienced team.
'I knew we were graduating four seniors I inherited and I knew we were going to be young,'' Wagner said. 'And I didn't know a lot about the Pac-10 and the places we were going to go but she (Nash) did. She was going to be the one to say we played here before and here's what you can expect.
'So I just started talking to her about that and getting her mind set. Now that time is upon us.'
Talk about capitalizing on opportunity. An example of what Nash has done on a regular basis this season was her performance in Oregon State's 69-62 win over Arizona Jan. 13 in Corvalllis. Nash made eight of 15 shots, including a pair of three-pointers, and nine free throws in scoring 27 points. She also pulled down 13 rebounds.
'She's getting double teamed, face guarded and being played very physical and she's still finding a way to score,' Wagner said.
Here come the freshmen
Despite an abundance of exceptional upper-class athletes, particularly the seven returnees from the 2006 All-Pac-10 team, the league has, through the first round of games, served as a stage for several talented freshmen.
The stellar yearling group includes Stanford's 6-foot-4 forward, Jayne Appel, and point guard JJ Hones; Julie Lomax of Oregon State; Taylor Lilley of Oregon; Marisa Stottler of Washington State; Lauren Grief of California and Dymond Simon of Arizona State.
If votes for freshman of the year were taken after the Washington-Stanford game Jan. 11, Appel might have been the unanimous choice. All she did against the Huskies was make seven straight field-goal attempts after she missed her first one while scoring 15 of the Cardinal's final 17 first-half points.
'Jayne just has a great knack for getting in deep, catching the ball and scoring,'' Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. 'There's not much you can do about it. When she gets that ball she finishes really well. She's eliminated her dribble. If you double her she passes really well.'
The most significant contribution Appel's freshman teammate, Hones, has made is being the point guard Stanford needed so superstar Candice Wiggins could capitalize on her scoring ability. Hones is No. 2 in the league in assist-turnover ratio (3.04).
OSU's Lomax is leading the Pac-10 in shooting percentage (69-of-100, 69 percent) and is No. 2 in rebounding at 8.7 per game.
Lilley, whose first season at Oregon has been shortened by a broken hand, now is doing what she was recruited to do --- shoot three-pointers accurately. In 10 games she has made 20-of-37 (54.1 percent).
Stottler is averaging 10.9 points as the leading scorer for the offensive-challenged Cougars. Grief is No. 4 in the Pac-10 in three-point field-goals made per game (31) and No. 7 in three-point shooting percentage (39.2) Simon is ASU's chief thief with an average of 1.67 steals per game.