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UConn WBB Weekly: How do former Husky players and assistants fare as head coaches?

Shea Ralph is the latest former UConn player and assistant to take over a program.

USA Women’s National Team Practice Photo by Blaine Ohigashi/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.

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From The UConn Blog and Storrs Central:

Last week’s Weekly:

In the news

  • Former UConn guard Caroline Doty joined Marisa Moseley’s staff at Wisconsin as an assistant coach.
  • Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams both made the All-EuroLeague First Team while Breanna Stewart made the second team. Williams also won the league’s defensive player of the year award.

How do former UConn assistants fare as head coaches?

Over the past 25 seasons, UConn women’s basketball has experienced remarkable continuity with its coaching staff. Since the start of 1995-96 season, the Huskies have only changed assistants six times and five of those coaches left to take a head coaching position.

Numerous former UConn players have also gotten into coaching across all three collegiate Divisions as well as high school.

Shea Ralph fits into both categories. She played for the Huskies from 1996-2001 player and then joined Geno Auriemma’s staff in 2008. Now, Ralph’s off to run her own program after being named head coach at Vanderbilt this past week.

With that, we decided to look at how some other former UConn players and assistant have fared as head coaches at the Division I level.

Charlene Curtis

At UConn: 1995-97 (coach)
Left for: Wake Forest (1997-2004)
Record since: 67-129

Curtis had previously been a head coach prior to coming to Storrs, unlike everyone else on this list. She started her career with a successful run at Radford from 1979-90 before moving to Temple, where she went just 41-97 over five seasons.

Curtis spent two years at UConn before taking the head job at Wake Forest. She coached the Demon Deacons for seven seasons but never finished with more than 13 wins in a season — though they did have a 100 percent graduation rate during that time.

After she was let go by Wake Forest, Curtis became the ACC’s Supervisor of Women’s Officials in 2008, a position she held until her retirement in 2019.

Jen Rizzotti

At UConn: 1992-96 (player)
Coached at: Hartford (1999-2016), George Washington (2016-21)
Record: 388-290

Rizzotti got her first gig as the head coach at Hartford, where she built the Hawks into an America East powerhouse. They claimed four regular season conference championships, won the conference tournament five times and even earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament once. Under Rizzotti, Hartford reached the second round twice and even cracked the top 25 in 2010, rising as high as No. 21.

Over her 17 seasons at UHart, Rizzotti became the America East’s all-time leader in wins with 305. In 2016, she left for George Washington and led the Colonials to the NCAA Tournament in her second season. But after that, Rizzotti finished below .500 over the next three seasons and was fired at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Carla Berube

At UConn: 1993-97 (player)
Coached at: Tufts (2002-19), Princeton (2019-present)
Division I record: 29-1 | Total record: 413-85

Unlike Rizzotti, Berube first cut her teeth as an assistant coach with Providence from 2000-02 before taking the head job at Tufts. There, she turned the Jumbos into one of the top Division III programs in the nation, reaching the Sweet Sixteen in each of her final eight seasons. Berube couldn’t capture a national championships despite making four consecutive Final Fours from 2014-17 — including back-to-back appearances in the title game in 2016 and 2017.

In 2019, Berube was hired as the head coach in Princeton and guided the Tigers to a 29-1 record before COVID-19 shut everything down. The Ivy League did not play this past season.

Tonya Cardoza

At UConn: 1994-2008 (coach)
Left for: Temple (2008-present)
Record since: 237-173

The longest-tenured assistant ever at UConn aside from Chris Dailey, Cardoza took over at Temple after Dawn Staley left for South Carolina in 2008. Since then, the Owls have been a solid mid-major program with four NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the WNIT Final Four in 2015.

Though Cardoza is the winningest coach in program history, things haven’t come as easily since Temple’s last NCAA Tournament in 2017 with four seasons at or below .500.

Jamelle Elliott

At UConn: 1992-96 (player), 1998-2009, 2020-present (coach)
Left for: Cincinnati (2009-2018)
Record since: 113-162

Elliott helped UConn win the 1995 national championship as a player and then won five more as an assistant for the Huskies. She became the head coach at Cincinnati in 2009 and brought the Bearcats to the WNIT twice.

Though the rebuild was slow at times, Elliott seemed to have the program trending in the right direction during the 2017-18 season, leading the team to its best record in 15 years and a WNIT berth despite playing home games in a high school gym. Even with that, Cincinnati fired Elliott at the end of the year, which drew the ire of Geno Auriemma and others in the women’s basketball world.

Marisa Moseley

At UConn: 2009-2018 (coach)
Left for: BU (2018-2021), now at Wisconsin (2021-present)
Record since: 45-29

Moseley left UConn after nine years for BU, her alma mater. When she took over, the Terriers had gone 10-19 the year prior and were picked to finish ninth in the conference. Moseley guided them to a 15-14 record and fourth place finish, earning Patriot League Coach of the Year. BU improved each year under Moseley and went 12-3 this past season, where the Terriers reached the Patriot League title game for the first time in program history.

On March 26, 2021, Moseley was named the head coach at Wisconsin. It’ll be a hefty rebuild for her considering the Badgers went 5-19 (2-18 in the Big Ten) last season and haven’t finished above .500 in over a decade.

Morgan Valley

At UConn: 2000-04 (player), 2004-05 (student assistant)
Coached at: Hartford (2019-present)
Record: 4-37

After her playing career ended in 2004, Valley joined UConn’s staff the next season as a student assistant. She then embarked on a seven team odyssey as an assistant over the next 14 seasons before Hartford gave Valley her first shot as a head coach in 2019. She hit the reset button in her opening season, going 1-28. This past year, the Hawks were 3-9 before the team collectively decided to cancel the remainder of the campaign due to COVID-19.


Best of social media

UConn’s tribute to Shea Ralph:

Shea Ralph threw out the first pitch at the Vanderbilt baseball game on Tuesday:

Sue Bird is excited about Ralph’s new job:

Quotables

Highlights from Shea Ralph’s introductory press conference at Vanderbilt:

“I’ve spent almost half of my life at UConn, as a player and as a coach. I’ll always bleed blue.”

Q: Do you have a timeline for the rebuild?

Ralph: “What I’ve learned over my career is that when you build something the right way, it might take a little bit of time but it will last forever. And so that’s what I plan to do. I’m not going to take any shortcuts.”

Q: Your husband was an assistant at Vanderbilt, what did he say about the opportunity?

“He said two words: No brainer. That’s what he said. My husband, if you know him, he doesn’t mince words. He tells me when I’m wrong all the time. He tells me when I make bad decisions and he tells me what he thinks about decisions. But from the very beginning, he was fully supportive because he knows and believes in Vanderbilt University and understands what an opportunity this is.”

Q: You’ve been around Geno Auriemma for so long, what will you take from him and how will you be different?

“I think that the greatest thing that I learned at Connecticut is what it takes to build and sustain eliteness. It’s not easy to do and if it were easy you’d see a lot more programs doing it...What I won’t bring? Probably technical fouls. Maybe a few but not a lot. And I think I have just a different style in general, but that’s not better or worse, good or bad. I think I’m just a little bit different than Coach.”

Q: There was a report that your husband is joining the staff at Vanderbilt, can you comment on that?

“We haven’t made any decisions right now (about the staff). I’m not ready to talk about that...but we’re going to do that sooner than later and I do have a shortlist.”