Banghart named Coach of the Year by U.S. Basketball Writers Association| Apr 6, 2015
It looks like Courtney Banghart has another accolade to add to what has already been a tremendous season.
Banghart, head coach of the most successful women’s basketball team in Princeton history, was on Sunday named Women's Coach of the Year by the United States Basketball Writers Association. She was named Ivy League Coach of the Year on March 13, and was named a finalist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year on March 20. In her tenure as head coach, she has led the Princeton women’s basketball team to a 169-67 record (71.8 percent).
Banghart was brought on as head coach in 2007 after working as an assistant coach for the Dartmouth Big Green. Her path to coaching success has not been filled solely with victories. In her first season (2007-2008), the Tigers went 7-23 and finished sixth in the Ivy League.
Of course, as time went on, Banghart’s gift for coaching would begin to shine through. The very next season she would bring the team’s win count to 14. The rest is history. Banghart’s winning percentage has not dipped below 70 percent since that season.
Of course, one percentage sticks out above all the rest: 100 percent. No basketball team in the league’s history has achieved what Banghart has done this season. Not only did she take this team to the Big Dance, but she also led them to their first victory in it.
When reached for comment, Banghart expressed her amazement at the kind of season she and the team have had.
“This whole season, especially what’s been happening in the postseason … it’s amazing.” Banghard said. She also maintained that the success also comes down to the kind of team she coaches, saying that “it’s the right group to coach.”
Clearly, Banghart has had amazing talent during her time as the head of Princeton women’s basketball. In particular, players like Niveen Rasheed ’13 and Blake Dietrick ’15 have been instrumental in the Tigers’ keeping their position at the top of the Ivy League. Rasheed, a four-year starter, was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, and was a force in the league from the moment she got to campus. Dietrick, for her part, was named Ivy League Player of the Year this past season. In the 2015 NCAA Tournament, she scored 26 points against Maryalnd in her final game as a Tiger.
Great players aside, every fantastic team obviously needs a fantastic coach. One could imagine that this women’s team might face complacency. Their margins of victory, especially early in the season, were jaw-dropping. On Dec. 19, they defeated the Portland State Vikings by 71 points.
Banghart, in few but strong words, described how the team kept itself moving during such times.
“We focused on ourselves.” Banghart said. “Our goals were great success in March. For us, it’s more about the process than the opponent.”
The process —growth through the season —is critical for any team with championship aspirations. As with any NCAA basketball team, conference play is all that matters.
Banghart’s ability to keep her players at full throttle may in part come from her own success as a player. A standout at Dartmouth, she was named First Team All-Ivy her junior and senior years.
Combining this with her experience as an assistant coach, she seems to have a real “coaching pedigree,” the exact kind of experience one looks for in a head coach.
Banghart, however, said that her prior experience in basketball taught her less than having the job itself did.
“There’s a certain part of being a head coach you learn on the job,” Banghart explained. Day in and day out, she’s focused on “bringing the best version of herself to Princeton.”
Banghart has brought little but success to Princeton since she has gotten here. In addition to this honor, she hopes to hear good news as the Naismith Coach of the Year, arguably the highest honor awarded to a college coach, is awarded on Tuesday evening.