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New Boston College Women’s Basketball Coach Meets the Media

Conte Forum The Gavel

(transcript provided by BC Athletics)

MARTIN JARMOND: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us this morning for this new era in women’s basketball. I have the pleasure and honor of introducing Coach Mac, Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and her family. Happy to see Jo, her husband, and Luke and Caden in BC gear already, so that’s off to a great start.

Before I do that, I just want to say a couple words and I want to thank a few people. First and foremost, I want to thank Father Leahy for his guidance and leadership during this process. He was instrumental in trusting me. We didn’t hire a search firm; he trusted me to do this and we got it done, and his support and guidance throughout this process was instrumental, so thank you so Father Leahy.

Also want to thank Jocelyn Fisher Gates. I think Jocelyn is here. She’s our senior women’s administrator. But she did a lot of the legwork, and she had a baby six weeks ago, so she welcomed Dennis III, and despite that, even when I wanted to keep her away, she kept calling and texting me all the time. So I want to thank her and also thank Vaughn Williams for stepping up and helping out during this process as we got it going.

Had a great administrative team, too, that helped throughout this process. Thank you. David Trainor, our VP of HR, he was very instrumental in helping us get this thing done and closed, and also Father Tony Penna. He was very helpful in the process, as well. So thank you to those guys, as well.

When we made the change, I met with the team, and I won’t share everything that the team said, but the one thing that mattered to me is we have to select a leader that is going to guide them and develop them and help them reach their potential. They all said to a person that they wanted to be better, they wanted to reach their full potential, and we wanted to find a leader that embodied that, and that’s why we do this, for these young women right here in the first and second row to your right. That was the priority throughout this whole process.

And one of the comments that they made to me was they wanted to be pushed. They wanted to be challenged, and they wanted to reach a new level, and I said to them that you have my word that I’m going to go out and we’re going to find a coach who is going to do just that, who is going to push you, who is going to help you grow on and off the court and reach your potential, and I can tell you 100 percent we secured that person in Joanna.

The process was thorough. I didn’t commit to how fast. I wanted to get it right, and we got it right.

But what I wanted to do was find someone that gets it, understands our mission. Our mission is to develop young people academically, athletically, socially and spiritually, and motivate and inspire, and that’s what Joanna does. I wanted a winner. I wanted someone that has won at different levels, that has been successful, has seen it, done it, and understands it, what it takes to build a program.

I also wanted someone that really has been in situations where they had to turn around a program, and that’s what this situation is, and so that was important to me to have that experience that you’ve seen it, you’ve done it and you understand it.

So that was important.

And finally, I wanted a good person. I wanted a person that understands Boston College, understands what we’re about, understands service, what it means for others, and gets it, and we’re family here, and that was really important to me. She can tell you a little bit more about herself, but that speaks volumes for the kind of family commitment that she has, and that was important.

Without further ado, I want to introduce our eighth women’s basketball coach, Coach Mac. (Applause.)

JOANNA BERNABEI-McNAMEE: Well, first, I would like to thank Father Leahy, Martin Jarmond. Thank you to his search committee, particularly Jocelyn Fisher Gates and Vaughn Williams for choosing me to be the next women’s basketball coach here at BC.

There are so many people that I want to extend thank-yous to, and that first starts with Mark Benson and my team at the University of Albany. The winning that we shared and the memories that we made I hold very close to my heart, and they were a big part of my success and my ability to get this position.

I also want to thank my mentors in the business. The list goes on, but it starts with Brenda Frese, Jeff Walz, Mike Carey. I want to thank them for their friendship to me and their sound advice. My family and close friends, again, you don’t get anywhere in life without a support system, and I’m fortunate enough to have a great one.

Most importantly, I’d like to thank my wonderful husband Joe, my awesome boys, Luke and Caden. They have given me an endless amount of love, support, and a real understanding of what this profession entails, and they’ve allowed me through that support to make this amazing opportunity and coaching dream a reality. So I thank you guys.

Well, I am grateful, and my path to getting here is a little bit unique, so I’d like to share it with you just briefly. I started out as a young assistant, extremely eager, hardworking, with one goal in mind, to be a head basketball coach at the highest level. I worked tirelessly on a coaching fast track, and found myself in my third season at Maryland right here in Boston, getting a huge milestone for basketball, winning a National Championship.

And then about -- very shortly, I found out I was going to have my set of Irish twins that are before us, and immediately, my focus and my priorities changed, and I knew that family had to come first, so I took a raising kids sabbatical from the profession. And with that, I didn’t know what was going to be in my future. But it’s funny how things come full circle and how you end up back sometimes - here I am back in the great city of Boston where I won that National Championship, and I’m going to get to conquer my new goals with a new team.

But yet my goals are still the same, and I got to -- they got to align, and I’m going to achieve them, which is a great responsibility and honor that I am excited about.

You know, I coached against Boston College in the era where they were a feared opponent in the ACC, Big East, and I think we all agree, and how lucky am I to work with an administration here that shares my passion for winning. We want the area -- this is a big area. There are many colleges, sports, there are many professional sports that fans can choose from. We all want BC women’s basketball to be where women’s basketball fans migrate.

How do we do that? We have a great product that we put on the court every night. And how do we do that? Well, like I said, back in the day when I coached against Boston College, they had great leadership, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing; leading this program back to that success.

It’s going to be a special building process. It’s going to be one that starts with discipline, confidence, hard work, trust, most importantly, and a love for one another. Through that foundation, that brick-by-brick foundation, I believe we can get back to successful and something that everyone here can be proud of.

Our style is going to be up tempo. Some things that I envision is that we will be the most in-shape team in the ACC. We’re going to be relentless rebounders. We’re going to have a positive perseverance. And why we’re going to do those things? Because those are three things, pushing tempo because we’re in great shape, rebounding, perseverance, those are all things we have control over right now. We don’t have to wait. Those are all within our control. So those are going to be the initial building blocks that we’re going to start with.

My staff and I are going to be committed to developing our current players and also recruiting the talent level that can compete in the ACC, which is the greatest women’s basketball conference in the country right now.

You know, I was fortunate enough through the recruiting process to get to speak with some people on The Heights and get to know them a little bit, and one of the things that I was amazed with was how they hold themselves to a higher purpose, to really fulfill the Jesuit mission. It just had a profound effect on me, and it made me know that this was a place that I wanted my family. That was a big selling point.

I know that this environment and what BC has can be a place where I can recruit top-level athletes that can help us win at the highest level.

In this place, Boston College, it’s amazing. Stunning campus. Stunning. We have an education that is world-renowned. We get to be in the great city of Boston, one of the greatest cities in the country, and I couldn’t be more excited, and I am eager, so eager, to get started. Working with you guys, I’m pumped. I got to meet with the team briefly before coming and sitting down with you guys, and I know that the foundation that’s here is going to be one that we can build upon.

I am also super thankful to have my family by my side, and I am thrilled to call Boston College my new home. Thank you.

Q. Quickly, was there a short list that you had in mind, having the opportunity to have this search by yourself? Was there a short list? Was she on the short list, and how did you come to the conclusion that this was the best fit for Boston College?MARTIN JARMOND: Yes, so throughout the season, my athletic director, you try to have a list or an idea of what kind of personality, what kind of characteristics that you’d like to attract if for some reason -- I say hit by a bus; if your coach was hit by a bus, what would you do? So I had a list, and then what we did was after we had that list, I actually asked Jocelyn and Vaughn to go back and just diversify it a little bit from the standpoint of find someone that’s won. I wanted someone that was a winner, that had consistent winning, and also someone that’s been in situations where they had to turn something around, and so that was -- every search is different, but that was very important to me for this one. And Joanna was on that list.

Actually her athletic director at Albany, Mark Benson, who’s a great friend of mine in the business, we both came through the development. When I called him and he said -- I said, women’s basketball, he said, oh, I know -- he had this reaction, and I know Mark, and he said, oh, I’m not going to like this call. He raved about her, and he had done a search a few years ago, and he said, you know, you’re going to really like her. She’s really good. So that was kind of the process. But yes, she was on there, and the more people I talked to, her name kept coming up.

And that’s kind of how you know, also. The more people that know basketball, that know the game, yeah, you know, she’s good. Her name just kept coming up, and it was kind of like right here, but you have to go through your process. And so by the time that we met, we had a great conversation our first time we talked was probably for about two hours. It was easy. And so it just went from there.

Q. You talked about your experience, I believe BC upset Ohio State in that same tournament you guys won in ‘06, so to bring BC back to that kind of place where they’re making NCAA tournaments or even the WNIT, what’s the first step for you being here in Boston?JOANNA BERNABEI-McNAMEE: You know, the first step is getting to know my players, current players, incoming freshmen, and then the second part of that is getting that belief and confidence instilled, because winning 100 percent is a mentality, and we’re going to have it, and we’re not going to settle for anything less than that, so we’re going to get in great shape, and we’re going to do it with trust and love, and we’re going to hit it.

Q. Coach, you hit on it a bit in your opening statement, but what were the things that really attracted you to this job and to Boston College?JOANNA BERNABEI-McNAMEE: Honestly, it’s, one, the best women’s basketball conference in the country. That’s exciting. But with that being said, you have to look at it and say, can we compete in that conference, and that’s something that Boston College truly has -- like I said, it’s a stunning, world-renowned education, and on top of that, I loved the people when I met them. They hold themselves to that higher standard and that accountability of service, and I know that I can -- I felt that, so then I envision -- and that’s what I talked to these ladies about earlier, I’m sure they felt that; that’s why they chose here. And I know I can recruit top players that are going to choose this place for those same reasons, because it’s more than just about basketball at the end of the day. You have to develop women to be empowered and to be basically the Jesuit standard of living, and I am excited that I get this opportunity, and I think that there is so much about this college that’s very special.

Q. You talked about recruiting and the ACC; knowing that you have experience all over the country, and being known in the ACC by the coaches, how do you think your experience helps you with this position, number one? And number two, how do you think the players will react to coming to play at Boston College now?JOANNA BERNABEI-McNAMEE: I think it helps me being familiar with the conference and the coaches in it because it gives me -- again, everything is a little bit about confidence, so it gives me that confidence to know what I’m going up against, and I also think the personability of myself, my staff, the people, we’re going to be able to bring in nationally-rated and regional highly-ranked players that will embrace Boston College with open arms.

Q. Will you talk a little more on your style of play? You mentioned kind of running and gunning --JOANNA BERNABEI-McNAMEE: I didn’t say run-and-gun. I said up tempo. It’s funny, I just said that to you guys, right? There’s a difference. We will play fast eventually. That’s something that we’re going to work toward. I don’t have in my game plan, hey, the shot has to go up within the first 12 seconds of the shot clock, anything like that. But I want to play fast. My ideal brand of basketball is when you’re putting your opponent on their heels, you’re changing up your styles a little bit throughout the game defensively to where you keep them guessing and you’re a little bit harder team to scout. So that’s going to take some time. But I am confident that my system is simple enough and fun and enjoyable to watch that we can start that change immediately.

Q. More a personnel question. You have coaches, staffs, BC programs here to support you. What’s that mean? Has this sunk in officially yet?JOANNA BERNABEI-McNAMEE: It’s starting to sink in. It was really nice to get text messages from the different coaches on campus, and it really held a close spot in my heart because I didn’t expect that. So I heard from a lot of people, and then yesterday I was able to reach out to some alumni, and just to hear their enthusiasm, it was exciting, and I’m excited to just get to know everybody. It’s a tight-knit family, and that’s something that Martin and Jocelyn and Vaughn all talk about, is that it’s a family here, and I’m clearly about family. My players are my second family, and my family embraces -- hopefully you guys will embrace my kids as your little brothers and they’ll embrace you as their sisters that beat them up a little bit, because that’s what it’s all about, so I’m excited about getting to know everybody.