UAlbany is replacing Coach Abe with Coach Mac.
Joanna Bernabei-McNamee, a successful head coach at the NAIA level who served as an assistant on Maryland’s 2006 national championship team, is the new head coach of the five-time America East champion UAlbany women’s basketball team, the university announced Friday night.
“Coach Mac,” as she is known, replaces Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. Abrahamson-Henderson, known as “Coach Abe,” left after the Great Danes’ NCAA Tournament run for Central Florida.
“Joanna has won at every level, including a national championship while the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Maryland,” UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said in a statement. “She instituted her ‘Hoops and Heels’ program for the professional development of female student-athletes, which aligns with current mentoring activities in our department. We are confident that Coach Mac can take our successful women’s basketball program to the next level.”
McNamee, a record-setting Division II college player, arrives in Albany after three seasons as the head coach of the University of Pikeville (Ky.), where she led the program to 26 wins this past season and an NAIA Fab Four appearance. The 2016 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) NAIA Regional Coach of the Year and 2015 Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year won 63 games at UPike in three seasons.
“While we hate to see Joanna go, we wish her nothing but the best moving forward at Albany,” Pikeville athletic director Robert Staggs said in a statement on the school’s website. “She did an incredible job here, recruiting quality student-athletes on and off the court. Leading us to a Fab Four and consistently being ranked in the top 25 in such a short time was extremely impressive.”
The coach has 10 years serving as an assistant at the Division I level. From 2003-07, she was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Maryland, a stint that included the Terrapins’ title season of 2005-06 when they went 34-4. During her tenure, she brought in four straight nationally ranked recruiting classes, including three in the top 10.
Neither Benson nor McNamee were available for comment Friday. A news conference is scheduled for next Friday.
“Being a part of the UAlbany program is a great opportunity for me and my family,” McNamee, a native of Weirton, W.Va., said in a statement. “This program and the success it has already accomplished is a great fit for me — the up-tempo brand of basketball fits my coaching style, and I’m excited to build upon the program’s success.”
McNamee spent two years at West Virginia University as an assistant coach, and two years at Eastern Kentucky. Her first head coaching job came in 1998 at West Virginia Wesleyan, where she went 18-9, finishing third the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference while also acting as the school’s senior women’s administrator.
“Every job prepares you for your next job, and I’ve been fortunate to have really positive experiences throughout my coaching career,” she said. “With my last stop at the Division I level being at the University of Maryland, where we won a national championship, I couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Brenda Frese. Along with our staff there, including Jeff Walz, who’s now at the University of Louisville, we really grew up together as a staff and learned a lot.”
She attended West Liberty State, where she was a record-setting point guard. McNamee was a Division II All-American and a four-time first-team All-WVIAC selection who was named the 1997 WVIAC Player of the Year. McNamee still holds the NCAA Division II career assists record of 1,107, and the record for assists in a game with 24. She is one of only four players in NCAA history to notch more than 1,000 points and 1,000 assists.
McNamee also holds NCAA records for assists per game (9.5), and the school and conference marks for assists in a game, season (294) and career. She was inducted into the West Liberty State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2011.
From 2009-13 McNamee took a nearly four-year hiatus from coaching to concentrate on raising her children, now 9 and 8.
McNamee arrives just as the program’s most successful coach in Abrahamson-Henderson and its greatest player — three-time America East Player of the Year Shereesha Richards — depart. In the past five seasons the Great Danes have won five America East tournament titles and four regular seeason titles, and this spring notched its first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament win, upsetting Florida.
“Coach Abe is such a great person and a great coach, and I look forward to following in her footsteps and doing a spectacular job here with the Great Danes,” McNamee said.
STILL NO TEAM FOR RICHARDS
Despite projections she would go somewhere in the early second round onward, UAlbany senior Shereesha Richards was not selected in Thursday’s three-round, 36-pick WNBA draft.
By Friday, she had yet to even secure an invite to a training camp.
“I reached out to every WNBA team right after the draft to possibly look for a training camp position,” said her representative, Ticha Penicheiro. “As of now, she will not go anywhere, but things can change.”