The University at Albany went with a long-named coach when it hired Joanna Bernabei-McNamee to take over the women’s basketball program.
McNamee turned around and hired a big name to round out her coaching staff: Yolanda Griffith, a two-time gold medal winner for the United States Olympic team who was recently named one of the 20 best players in the history of the WNBA.
“I’m honored to be a part of the Great Dane family, and I’m looking forward to continuing the winning tradition that’s been started,” Griffith, who in 2014 was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility, said in a statement. “There is plenty of work to be done, but myself, the coaches and the players are going to work tirelessly to keep it going.”
Griffith was a member of the U.S. national team that won gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Those teams went 16-0 in international competition.
Griffith played at Palm Beach Community College from 1990-92 and at Florida Atlantic in the 1992-93 season. She moved to Germany and played in the EuroLeague the next three seasons before becoming the No. 1 pick of the American Basketball Association’s Long Beach Sting Rays. (She also played professionally in China, Italy, Russia and South Korea.) She played the following season for Chicago, before the ABL folded.
Griffith was the second selection of the 1999 WNBA draft by the Sacramento Monarchs, winning MVP, rookie of the year and defensive player of the year.
In the 2000 Olympics, the 6-foot-3 Griffith was the top America rebounder at almost nine a game, and third in scoring at 11.5 ppg. As a key reserve in the 2004 Games she shot 60 percent from the field. In 2005, Griffith led the Monarchs to the 2005 WNBA title, being named Finals MVP.
For her 11-year WNBA career Griffith shot 50.6 percent, finishing with 4,238 points, 2,444 rebounds, 529 steals, 453 assists and 323 blocks.
“Yolanda Griffith is a women’s basketball icon; decorated as one of the greatest players of all time, her on-court coaching presence is felt immediately,” said UAlbany head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “Coach Yo’s infectious personality and ability to develop players sets her apart. Behind the scenes, she is a proven recruiter: her positive energy and strong work ethic will make it easy for her to connect and build bonds with both our current UAlbany players and our high level recruits. I am thrilled to welcome Coach Yo to our UAlbany women’s basketball family!”
Griffith formerly was an assistant coach at UMass from 2014-16, Lafayette for the 2013-14 season and Dartmouth from 2011-13. She also served as an adjunct assistant coach with the Indiana Fever in the WNBA in 2009. She formerly was a member of the Women’s Developmental National Team Committee for USA Basketball, evaluating athletes, coaches and policies as the athlete representative. She helped review hundreds of athletes for 35 spots for trails for USA Basketball, including the U16 and U17 Developmental Teams. She is currently working on her degree from the University of Phoenix.
Griffith joins Mary Grimes and AJ Cohen as assistant coaches under Bernabei-McNamee for Coach Mac’s first season at UAlbany.
McNamee, formerly of the University of Pikeville, an NAIA school in Kentucky, was hired in April to replace Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who had transformed the Great Danes from a mediocre program into a powerhouse, winning the past five America East titles and appearing the NCAAs. UAlbany registered its first-ever NCAA win this March when as a No. 12 seed it upset No. 5 Florida in Syracuse. Abrahamson-Henderson left to coach at Central Florida. “Coach Mac” (not to be confused with her also-hyphenated predecessor, who went by “Coach Abe”), was also a longtime Division I assistant.