UAlbany women’s basketball takes on former coach Bernabei-McNamee Sunday at Boston College

Joanna Bernabei-McNamee now coaches the Boston College women's basketball team. (Photo courtesy John Quackenbox/Boston College Atheltics)

Joanna Bernabei-McNamee now coaches the Boston College women's basketball team. (Photo courtesy John Quackenbox/Boston College Atheltics)

In her first seasons leading the Boston College women’s basketball program, it “wasn’t even a thought” for head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee to try to schedule a game against UAlbany.

That, the former Great Danes coach said in a Friday interview with The Daily Gazette, “would’ve been too tough.”

Now, in her fourth season at Boston College of the ACC, Bernabei-McNamee said there’s been enough time — and enough roster turnover at UAlbany — for her to look forward to the chance to compete against the program she led to a 45-17 record during two seasons at the helm.

“It should be a really fun game,” Bernabei-McNamee said of Sunday’s noon matchup between her current and former programs at Silvio O. Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill. 

Bernabei-McNamee coached UAlbany during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, leading the program to NCAA tournament and WNIT berths before taking the job at Boston College in April 2018. No players remain on UAlbany’s roster that Bernabei-McNamee coached or recruited, which made the decision for Bernabei-McNamee to try to schedule a game with Colleen Mullen — Bernabei-McNamee’s successor at UAlbany — a logical move this past offseason.

Bernabei-McNamee and Mullen didn’t know each other well prior to Mullen’s hire to lead the Great Danes. Bernabei-McNamee, though, made it a point to reach out after Mullen was hired to offer any assistance she could to UAlbany’s new head coach. From there, Mullen said a “great rapport” developed between the two coaches.

“She’s been terrific to me,” said Mullen, whose team brings a 1-2 record into its fourth non-conference game of the season. “When I took over the job after she took the Boston College job, she was extremely available to help me with getting adjusted to UAlbany and the players.”

Bernabei-McNamee spoke highly of her two seasons at UAlbany, and said she admires the job Mullen has done rebuilding the Great Danes’ program. While UAlbany had sustained success prior to Mullen’s tenure, the Great Danes’ current coach inherited a program with a roster that had experienced significant turnover since — at one point — she was the team’s third head coach in 24 months. Katie Abrahamson-Henderson led UAlbany to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances before Bernabei-McNamee led the Great Danes to two more postseason appearances . . . and, then, Mullen took over a program needing to be patiently restocked.

“The hand she was dealt wasn’t the hand she should’ve been dealt because people transferred,” Bernabei-McNamee said of Mullen’s start at UAlbany. “I thought that was really tough.”

While UAlbany brings a losing record into its matchup with 4-1 Boston College, the Great Danes have more depth and talent this season than they’ve had in Mullen’s first three, which saw the team put together an overall mark of 29-50. When America East Conference play rolls around, UAlbany should be one of the top challengers to defending champion Stony Brook.

“What’s really impressed me about them, though, is how hard they’re playing,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “They play gritty and move the ball around. . . . The first thing we said [to our team about UAlbany] is that this team is going to play hard — and that’s the best compliment you can give another coach or program.”

At Boston College, Bernabei-McNamee entered this season with a 41-40 record. Her team this season is an interesting mix of largely freshman and seniors, and is off to a start that includes wins against Harvard, Holy Cross, Northeastern and Providence. Bernabei-McNamee said she’s excited about her team’s prospects this season, but that her club is a “work in progress” in terms of its on-court chemistry.

“That’s where we can make some huge gains,” Bernabei-McNamee said.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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