The scope of women’s basketball has greatly expanded over the past three decades, but Rutgers University is taking time during their January 29 game against Northwestern to recognize a pair of great Scarlet Knights teams of the past. At halftime of that contest at the Rutgers Athletic Center, the 1982 and 1987 squads will be duly recognized for their respective accomplishments.
In 1982, the Rutgers women put together a 25-7 record and ended up winning the Division I AIAW national championship by defeating the Texas Longhorns by an 83-77 score. Five years later, the 1987 team ended up winning the Atlantic 10 Conference before reaching the Elite Eight and finishing with a 30-3 mark.
Both squads were coached by Theresa Grentz, who went on to earn a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. Grentz was a standout player during the early 1970’s and parlayed that success into a coaching career that’s currently in its 35th year at Lafayette College.
Among the most prominent members of that 1982 senior-dominated squad was June Olkowski, who earned All-America honors during that season. Olkowski ended her career with that championship after scoring 1,500 points and hauling down 780 rebounds in four years.
Her talents helped earn her a spot on the United States team at the World University Games. In 1988, she became the first Rutgers women’s basketball player ever to have her jersey retired by the school.
Yet that 1982 team was able to win the title through the championship game performances of tournament MVP Patty Coyle and Terry Dorner. The duo combined for 55 of the Scarlet Knights’ 80 points, with Coyle putting up a career-high 30 points in the contest to also put a cap on her own stellar career.
The victory at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia ended a 30-game winning for Texas. The key stretch of the game came in the second half when the Scarlet Knights went on a 10-2 run to break a 59-all deadlock.
In 1987, Grentz won national Coach of the Year accolades with a squad that won the Atlantic 10 tournament in a 93-48 rout of St. Joseph’s. The centerpiece of a team that finished the year ranked fifth in the country was two-time All-American and conference Player of the Year, Sue Wicks. She concluded her legendary career as the school’s career leader in nine categories. What might be considered even more amazing is that those records are still on the books.
Yet two other players also made their mark. Regina Howard became the first Rutgers’ women’s player to break the 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound career thresholds, with her performance in that Atlantic 10 tournament garnering her MVP honors. Meanwhile, Kristen Foley served as captain of that squad and ended up earning second team All-America recognition.
The Scarlet Knights have gone on to compete in the 2000 and 2007 Final Fours, yet it was the efforts of the 1982 and 1987 teams that laid the groundwork for that success.
To read on the current women’s basketball team and their progress this season, click here.