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Rutgers hires Coquese Washington as head coach of women’s basketball

She won three Big Ten titles as head coach at Penn State and one national championship as an assistant at her alma mater Notre Dame.

Sacred Heart at Penn State Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Rutgers announced the hiring of Coquese Washington as the new women’s basketball head coach on Monday night. She has 22 years of coaching experience and led Penn State to three consecutive Big Ten titles during her 12 year stint in State College. Her overall record in Happy Valley was 209-169 overall and 98-107 in the Big Ten.

“We are excited to welcome Coquese and her family to Rutgers,” said Athletic Director Pat Hobbs. “It is important that the next leader of our women’s basketball program be someone with a proven track record of winning, exemplary leadership and great character. Coquese is the perfect fit on all those criteria. She is someone who is hard-working, passionate and dedicated to building a championship program and that commitment extends equally to the success our student-athletes will have off the court. I look forward to Coquese leading this next chapter of the program and continuing the legacy that has come to define Rutgers women’s basketball.”

During a four year period from 2010-2014, Coquese (pronounced ko-KWEES) Washington led the Nittany Lions to a 101-31 overall record, a 51-13 record in Big Ten play and made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. PSU made the Sweet 16 twice and advanced to at least the second round in all four appearances. Washington was named Big Ten Coach of the Year three years in a row from 2012-2014 with Penn State winning the regular season conference title each of those seasons.

“The tradition of the women’s basketball program at Rutgers is one of excellence both on the court and in our classrooms. I have every hope and expectation that Coach Washington will expand on that tradition and I look forward to sharing in her success at the Jersey Mike’s Arena,” said Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway.

Washington played at Notre Dame and holds the program record with a career 2.7 steals per game average. She finished her career with the Irish ranked third all-time in steals and seventh all-time in assists. Washington graduated Notre Dame in three years and then completed her law degree at the school. After that, she went on to play six seasons in the WNBA, winning a title and becoming the first player to lead three different teams to the postseason.

Following her playing career, Washington returned to Notre Dame as an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Muffat McGraw. She was on the bench for the Irish’s 2001 national championship and was later promoted to associate head coach. Washington was hired as head coach at Penn State after eight seasons in South Bend as an assistant.

Despite the early success with the Nittany Lions, Washington was let go by the school after the 2019 season following just one winning campaign over a five year period. Although PSU’s overall record was just 67-89 in her last five seasons, they did win 21 games in 2017 and earned two WNIT appearances during that time frame.

“I am beyond thrilled with the opportunity to be here at Rutgers, a university that excels both academically and athletically,” said Washington. “Following in the footsteps of Hall of Fame coaches Theresa Grentz and C. Vivian Stringer is a tremendous honor. They exemplify achieving high levels of excellence with grace, class, integrity and dignity. The way they blazed trails and impacted the lives of student-athletes and coaches, beyond the ones on their teams, is nothing short of amazing. Standing on their shoulders to guide this program is going to be a wonderful adventure, and our family is eager to get to Piscataway and become a part of this remarkable community.”

During her coaching career, Washington has been a part of signing 12 different top 25 recruiting classes while coaching six All-Americans and having 13 former players compete in the WNBA.

Rutgers signed Washington to a six year contract that guarantees total compensation at $4.625 million with additional performance incentives.

Washington will be formally announced as the third full-time head coach in Rutgers women’s basketball history on Tuesday, May 24 at 3:00 p.m. inside Jersey Mike’s Arena with the press conference televised live on the Big Ten Network.