University at Albany Director of Athletics Mark Benson announced Friday, April 15th, 2016 the hiring of Joanna Bernabei-McNamee as the 11th head women’s basketball coach in program history and fourth head coach in the Great Danes’ Division I era.
Bernabei-McNamee enters her second season as head coach in 2017. Her first season saw the Great Danes win an unprecedented sixth-consecutive America East title and NCAA tournament berth behind a 21-12 overall record and 12-4 conference record. Coach Mac earned her 100th career victory as a head coach with a win over Vermont in the quarterfinals of the America East tournament, and oversaw two freshman point guards, Mackenzie Trpcic and Khepera Stokes, surpass the existing freshman single season assists record. After meeting and defeating Maine in the America East championship game, the Great Danes drew top overall seed Connecticut in the NCAA tournament. Defensively, the 2016-17 Great Danes set a program record for total blocks in a single season with 142.
Bernabei-McNamee (pronounced Bern-uh-BEE Mac-Na-MEE), a native of Weirton, W.Va., comes to UAlbany after three seasons as the head coach of the University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Ky. There, McNamee racked up 63 wins and led the program to back-to-back National Tournament berths, including a program-record 26 victories and an NAIA Final Four appearance in 2016. McNamee was named the 2016 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) NAIA Regional Coach of the Year, and was also named the 2015 Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year.
“On behalf of the University at Albany, I extend a warm welcome to Joanna. Her track record of success at every level of the game – as a head coach, assistant coach, and player – makes her an ideal fit for our women’s basketball program,” said Robert J. Jones, President, University at Albany. “She is respected by her peers and is committed to building strong relationships both with our campus community and the community-at-large. We look forward to working with Joanna to bring our women’s team to the next level of excellence.”
“We are extremely excited to have Coach Mac as our new women’s basketball coach,” said Benson. “She personifies the principles and values that are at the core of Great Dane athletics. Continuing the success of our women’s basketball program, on and off the court, was paramount in our search.”
“Joanna has won at every level, including a National Championship while the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Maryland,” added Benson. “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.”
“Being a part of the UAlbany program is a great opportunity for me and my family,” said Coach McNamee. “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.”
Prior to Pikeville, McNamee coached at the NCAA Division I level for 10 years. She served as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Maryland for four seasons from 2003 to 2007, and helped pilot the Terrapins to the 2006 National Championship. Maryland beat Duke 78-75 in overtime for the title and finished with a record of 34-4. During her tenure, she brought in four straight nationally ranked recruiting classes, including three in the top 10.
“Every job prepares you for your next job, and I’ve been fortunate to have really positive experiences throughout my coaching career,” said Coach Mac. “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.”
McNamee spent two years at West Virginia University as an assistant coach where she was a scout, position coach and recruiting coordinator. Before her time as a Mountaineer, McNamee had a two-year stint at Eastern Kentucky where she was responsible for scouting, individual player development, as well as serving as the recruiting coordinator.
Coach Mac gained head coaching experience in 1998 at West Virginia Wesleyan where she compiled an 18-9 record and a third-place finish in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC), while also acting as the school's Senior Women's Administrator.
McNamee attended West Liberty State where she was a Division II All-American and a four-time first-team All-WVIAC selection as a point guard. Named the 1997 WVIAC Player of the Year, she 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 record over 1,000 points and 1,000 assists, finishing her stellar career with 1,317 total points.
McNamee also holds NCAA records for average assists per game (9.5), and the school and conference marks for assists in a game, season (294) and career. She led her team to an 80-36 record over four years and is listed on West Liberty's Top 20 All-Time Best Athletes list. She was the first woman to be named first-team All-West Virginia Athletic Conference for four years and was inducted into the West Liberty State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2011.
McNamee earned her bachelor's degree in exercise physiology in 1997 from West Liberty and a master's degree from Eastern Kentucky in sports administration in 1999.
Joanna and her husband Joe McNamee have two sons, Luke (9) and Caden (8). McNamee took a nearly four-year hiatus from coaching (2009-13) to focus on raising her children.
Coach Mac takes over a UAlbany program that has won a combined nine America East Conference tournament and regular season titles in the last five seasons, and has made five consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. In the 2015-16 season, UAlbany defeated No. 5 Florida for the program’s first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament victory.
“I’m looking forward to taking what I have learned to this level and it’s nice that the program here already has an established mindset and culture that I will continue to grow,” said McNamee. “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.”
THE “COACH MAC” FILE
Head Coach, University at Albany (April 2016-present)
Head Coach, University of Pikeville (March 2013-April 2016)
Assistant Coach, University of Maryland (June 2003-May 2007)
Assistant Coach, West Virginia University (June 2001-June 2003 / May 2008-May 2009)
Assistant Coach, Eastern Kentucky University (June 1999-June 2001)
Head Coach, West Virginia Wesleyan College (June 1998-June 1999)
Graduate Assistant, Eastern Kentucky University (June 1997-June 1998)
Overall Head Coaching Record: 102-57
Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Physiology (West Liberty State College, 1997)
Master's Degree in Sports Administration (Eastern Kentucky University, 1998)
Husband: Joe McNamee
Children: Luke, Caden
OTHER COACHES ON COACH MAC:
"Joanna is a rising star in our profession. She was instrumental as our recruiting coordinator to help put the pieces together for our 2006 National Championship team. She is a natural winner, but is an even better person. She is the perfect hire and will do tremendous things with the Great Danes." - Brenda Frese, University of Maryland Women's Basketball Head Coach
"UAlbany made a terrific decision in hiring Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. I was fortunate to work with her at Maryland for four years. She is a great basketball-minded coach, who loves to recruit, and I have the utmost confidence she will succeed. Joanna is not only a great person, but she is family oriented, with a supportive husband, and I have no doubt that the community and fan base will embrace her tireless work ethic and passion to win." - Jeff Watz, University of Louisville Women's Basketball Head Coach
"Joanna Bernabei-McNamee has extensive experience playing and coaching college basketball. Her work ethic and coaching philosophy have made Joanna an up-and-coming women's basketball coach. UAlbany has hired a strong leader and coach for their women's basketball program. She had great success as the University of Pikeville and I'm confident Joanna will have much success at UAlbany." - Mike Carey, West Virginia University Women's Basketball Head Coach