The winningest coach in Arizona women's basketball history, Joan Bonvicini has nurtured the Wildcat program into an upward-rising women's basketball powerhouse. In 12 years at the helm of the Arizona program, Bonvicini has guided the Wildcats to seven postseason appearances, including five NCAA tournament berths and two in the WNIT.
Under Bonvincini's tutelage, the Wildcats have finished in the upper tier of the Pac-10 in each of the last eight years. During this time, Arizona has been nationally ranked multiple times, including a best-ever ranking of seventh in 1998.
Bonvicini's success is mirrored in her players' accolades. She has produced one All-American, two honorable mention All-Americans, a Pac-10 Player of the Year, three Pac-10 Freshmen of the Year, 17 All-Pac-10 honorees, 14 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team choices and eight Academic All-Pac-10 selections.
Bonvicini herself has earned her share of laurels, having three times been a finalist for the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award and the Associated Press College Coach of the Year Award. She was also the 1998 WBCA Region 8 Coach of the Year and the 1998 Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
Bonvicini holds a 214-139 (.606) mark in 12 years at Arizona and is 539-210 (.720) in 24 years as a head coach. She is 23-15 in NCAA tournament play and has lost just one first-round game in 15 tourney appearances.
Throughout Bonvicini's tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have re-written the women's basketball record book and have chalked up many historical moments.
After an "off" season with a 14-14 mark in 2001-02, Bonvicini brought her Wildcats roaring back onto the national scene in 2002-03. Last year's team went 22-9 and earned the most victories for any squad in three years. The Cats were 13-5 in Pac-10 play and finished in a tie for second place with Washington, equaling Arizona's best-ever finish in the league standings. The Cats were runners-up in the second annual Pac-10 Conference Tournament and earned an at-large bid to the 2003 NCAA Tournament, making the Big Dance for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
During the 2000-01 season, Bonvicini guided a young and inexperienced group of Wildcats through a season of adversity to garner a 20-12 mark. The Cats tied the 2000 team for the best start (14-2) in the history of the program and set or tied 39 school records.
In the summer of 2001, Bonvicini took her team on a 16-day tour of Italy, their second such visit to that country. The squad earned a 5-1 mark on that trip, even though only seven Wildcats were available to play.
The 1999-2000 squad finished in the top four of the Pac-10 for the fifth consecutive year and earned the program's fourth straight NCAA bid. The Cats finished the year with a 25-7 mark, the best overall record in the history of the program. Arizona went 13-5 in Pac-10 play, tying for second place and equaling the team's highest conference finish ever.
Despite having what some considered a "rebuilding" year in 1999, Bonvicini guided the Cats to their third NCAA tournament appearance in as many years. That young, inexperienced squad garnered an 18-11 record and finished fourth in the league standings.
During 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 had one All-American, one All-Pac-10 honoree, four honorable mention All-Pac-10 players and one Pac-10 All-Freshman Team member, as well as the Pac-10 Player of the Year. 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 in 1991 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.
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 crisscrossing 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 1998 was chosen the Pac-10 Player of the Year, as well as a third team All-American. The members of that recruiting class graduated years ago, 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 Bonvicini's former players have gone on to play at the professional level. Five former Wildcats have been drafted by WNBA teams since 1997, and former Wildcat Adia Barnes was a starter for the WNBA Seattle Storm during the 2003 season. Former LBSU player, Penny Toler, is the general manager for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks.
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 was a member of the women's basketball NCAA Rules Committee from 1994-98, is currently on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson, and is a former member of the Tucson Area Girl Scouts board.
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.