Here's another in the "Terrific 32," series, taking a look at the all-time best MAAC basketball happenings.
Up now ...
PAT COYLE BECOMES WNBA COACH
It's not very often that one of our conference's coaches makes it to the very top of the profession.
In fact, your blogger can't remember a single instance of a former men's head coach from the MAAC ever becoming an NBA head coach. The closest is former Siena assistant Steve Clifford ("Terrific" story, no. 31), who is now the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats..
But, it has happened on the women's side when, early in the 1998-99 season , Coyle was hired away from Loyola to become an assistant coach with the WNBA New York Liberty. Coyle eventually became that franchise's head coach from 2004-09.
Coyle had been at Loyola from the start of the 1992-93 season until she left the program for the pros after the Greyhounds' first five games. During her time at the Baltimore school she turned around a program that had 13 consecutive losing seasons (12-71 the three seasons before Coyle's arrival).
That turned around in quick order. Her first Loyola team went 14-15, and in her six-plus seasons there her teams had a 100-77 record and advanced to back-to-back NCAA tournaments (1995 and 1996), still Loyola's only two trips to the women's NCAA event.
When Coyle finally lost her position in the WNBA she wasn't out of work long, becoming an assistant coach with Pittsburgh, a position that lasted through this past season.
And, now, Coyle has come full circle. She is back in the MAAC, hired over the spring, to be head coach at Saint Peter's.
For sure, it's another rebuilding situation. The Peacocks have just one overall winning season in the last 11, and a league-worst 13-79 mark over the past three seasons.
"I'm not real concerned about what happened here in the past," said Coyle, in a phone interview this summer. "I haven't even looked at film from last year. I want to form my own opinion about what's here. Everyone starts with a clean slate."
It's not like success is foreign to the program. Saint Peter's won at least 20 games in a season 15 times from the league's start in 1971 through the 2001-02 season, more than any other MAAC team over that stretch.
"That's one of the things that attracted me ... that Saint Peter's has a real strong history," added Coyle. "This program had some great past success. Mike Granelli (the coach through much of that) did a real good job. I know because I had to coach against him at Loyola, and it was just a nightmare whenever you had to look forward to playing against Saint Peter's."
And, now, the league's only women's coach to have served as a WNBA head coach, is back in the league likely to soon make it a nightmare, once again, to play against Saint Peter's.