Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 06, 1999
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Joan Bonvicini
Head Coach
Ninth Year
Southern Connecticut, 1975
Arizona Record: 134-98 (8 years)
Career Record: 459-169 (20 years)

1998 Pac-10 Coach of the Year

In her eight years at the helm of The University of Arizona's women's basketball program, head coach Joan Bonvicini has collected an unparalleled list of accomplishments, both for the university and for her career.

On Jan. 23, 1999, Bonvicini surpassed the 450-win total for her career with a victory over Oregon State. That was her 125th Arizona win as well. .

Now with a career win total of 459, Bonvicini is still steering the Wildcat program at full steam ahead. In a season that saw her playing five freshmen on a regular basis, Bonvicini guided the 1999 Cats to yet another NCAA tournament appearance, their third in as many years. .

During her eight years at Arizona, Bonvicini has directed the Wildcat program into uncharted waters many times. In the summer of 1997, Bonvicini took the Wildcats on a first-ever trip to Australia, in order to prep them for an important upcoming 1998 season. Despite facing experienced international talent, she directed the Cats to a 7-1 mark over the 18-day tour. .

That trip provided the Wildcats with a vital bonding experience that stuck with them into the 1997-98 season and aided in the program's best ever Pac-10 mark of 14-4. The UA, which tied UCLA for second in the league standings, finished the regular season with a 21-6 record-the program's fewest number of losses in 23 years. .

Bonvicini's 1998 Wildcats set or tied 34 school records, had one All-American, one All-Pac-10 honoree, four honorable mention All-Pac-10 players and one Pac-10 All-Freshman Team member. .

Nominated for both Naismith College Coach of the Year and Associated Press Coach of the Year, Bonvicini capped the regular season by earning her first-ever Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. .

Bonvicini then led Arizona women's basketball further into uncharted territory, as the Wildcats made the "Sweet Sixteen" while in only their second-ever NCAA tournament appearance. .

After finishing the 1997 season with a school-record 22 regular-season wins, Bonvicini's Wildcats earned the school's first bid to the NCAA Tournament. A win over Western Kentucky in the first game maintained Bonvicini's undefeated record in first-round NCAA competition, and the Cats went on to strongly challenge sixth-ranked Georgia in the second round. .

One of the most respected coaches in the game, Bonvicini was chosen eight years ago to direct The University of Arizona's dormant women's basketball program into the next decade. .

Since her arrival in 1991, she has taken the Wildcat program and turned it upside down. The team, never before linked with the Pac-10 Conference powers, is now among the feared competitors in the league -- Bonvicini's teams play hard. In 1996, Bonvicini's team made Wildcat history with their first-ever postseason appearance, where they brought home the NWIT Championship trophy. .

Attendance has skyrocketed -- Arizona ranks among the conference leaders. Nationally recognized recruits are visiting Arizona and signing on to play. Never before had the University or the city seen anyone throw so much time and effort into a team that had produced precious few victories in the last decade. .

The ball is still rolling in Tucson, and as Bonvicini enters her ninth year at Arizona and her 21st season as a head coach, her expectations are higher than ever. .

In 1991-92, her first season with the Cats, Bonvicini brought fans out in record numbers. Attendance nearly tripled, and the spirited coach led her team to upsets over her former team, No. 25 .Long Beach State, and its first-ever win over Washington. .

Her second season was no different; the Cats produced the most victories by an Arizona squad since 1986. They split every Pac-10 road trip, upset No. 23 California and won at UCLA for the first time. Crowd support was at an all-time high as the Cats ranked third in the Pac-10 in attendance. .

In the summer of 1993, Bonvicini took her team on a 13-day, six-game tour of France and Italy. It was a first for any women's team at Arizona and the results paid off. The team formed a cohesive unit entering the 1993-94 season, opening with a four-game winning streak that was snapped only by a two-point loss to No. 1 Tennessee in McKale Memorial Center. The team finished with the most victories since 1986 and the most Pacific-10 Conference wins ever at the time. .

Bonvicini has implemented a recruiting effort that sweeps the nation; she and her assistants spend countless hours and thousands of miles criss-crossing the country looking for the nation's finest talent. .

Her first true recruiting class, in 1992, was ranked seventh in the nation by the Blue Star Report. In 1994, Bonvicini had what she called her "finest recruiting class" since arriving in Tucson. It proved to be true as Adia Barnes was named Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year in 1995, and in 1999 was chosen the Pac-10 Player of the Year, as well as a third team All-American. .

The members of that recruiting class have graduated now, but they will forever be remembered as the foundation upon which a nationally prominent Arizona women's basketball program was built. .

Bonvicini came to Arizona after concluding a 12-year tenure at Long Beach State with a record of 325-71 (.820). Her teams captured 10 Big West Conference titles in 12 consecutive winning seasons, never winning less than 24 games in a season. .

During her tenure, the 49ers made 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and reached the elite level twice, appearing in the Final Four during both the 1987 and 1988 seasons. Her teams were ranked in the Associated Press Top-20 poll each year, staying in the top 10 every year but one. The 1985 squad finished the season at No. 3 with a 28-3 record. .

Bonvicini's players earned recognition as well. Among her teams at Long Beach were 1983 Wade Trophy winner and three-time first team All-American LaTaunya Pollard, two-time first team All-American and 1988 U.S. Olympic Team member Cindy Brown, 1985 first team All-American Kirsten Cummings and two-time first team All-American Penny Toler. .

Many of these former players have gone on to play at the professional level. Four former LBSU players -- Penny Toler, Trasie Jackson, Cindy Brown, Penny Moore -- and former Wildcat Adia Barnes were all part of the player pool for the WNBA last year, while former 49ers Kirsten Cummings and Dana Wilkerson were members of the now-defunct American Basketball League. .

Bonvicini began her coaching career upon graduation from Southern Connecticut. An east coast native, she moved west to serve as an assistant coach at Cal Poly- Pomona in Southern California. From there, she was hired as an assistant at Long Beach State and promoted, in 1979 at age 25, to head coach, after two years at the university. .

In her second year as a head coach, Bonvicini went 27-7 and was named the 1981 NCAA Division I Coach of the Year. Following the 1985-86 season, she was named the Region VIII and PCAA Coach of the Year. She earned WCAA Coach of the Year honors in 1984 and has also been honored as the 1989 "Citizen of the Year" in Long Beach. .

In 1993, she was selected as head coach of the United States World University Games team. She guided the squad to a bronze medal in the first games to be held in the U.S. She served as a member of the selection committee for the USA Olympic Basketball Team and spent the summer of 1991 as an assistant coach for the U.S. Pan American Team. .

In 1990 she guided the U.S. Select Team to a 5-1 record in international play. In 1981, Bonvicini was head coach of the West squad in the U.S. Olympic Festival and in 1982 was an assistant on the U.S. National Team. .

Bonvicini has made the rounds on the international circuit as well. During the summer of 1996, Bonvicini was selected to be the head coach of the Pac-10 All-Star Team which toured Japan. The group spent 10 days touring Japan and competing against the Japan All-Star Team. .

She has been an at-large representative to the USA Games Committee for Women for the 1989-92 quadrennium and has been a part of selection committees for the U.S. Olympic Festival, World Championships, Pan American Games, World University Games and the Olympics. She served as president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association in 1988. .

Bonvicini does not confine her skills to the court. She travels the speakers' circuit tirelessly and has participated in numerous basketball seminars and camps, including stints as a guest instructor in Italy. She is a member of the women's basketball NCAA Rules Committee and is on the board of directors for both the Tucson Area Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson. .

A 1975 graduate of Southern Connecticut State, Bonvicini, a guard, led her teams to third and fourth place finishes in the 1974 and '75 AIAW Championships. She earned 1975 Region I-A MVP and honorable mention All-America honors and was a finalist for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team. .

Bonvicini was inducted as a player into the Southern Connecticut State University Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994. In October of 1996, she was inducted as a coach into the Long Beach State University Hall of Fame. .

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