Penn State Basketball

Lady Lions coach signs contract extension

At a news conference in April, acting athletic director David Joyner promised that Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington, who had days earlier interviewed for the vacant Michigan job, would “be well cared for” by the university.Nearly five months to the day later, Penn State announced Wednesday just how well they’ll take care of the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Washington received a five-year contract extension through the 2017 season with a compensation package that approaches $3.5 million.

“I am very happy to announce these terms,” said Joyner in a university statement Wednesday evening. “This represents the continued and strong commitment between Penn State and one of our great coaches.”

Because of a team activity, Washington was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening. Through a university statement she said, “The Penn State community has been a wonderful blessing to me and my family and I am truly honored to continue serving as the head coach of Lady Lion basketball.”

Washington, a former Notre Dame standout, WNBA player and Fighting Irish assistant coach, inherited a program in turmoil when she took over in April of 2007 following longtime head coach Rene Portland’s resignation. After two losing seasons (Penn State’s fourth straight), Washington began rebuilding the program that had been a perennial Top 25 squad.

She’s guided the Lady Lions to back-to- back NCAA Tournament appearances and a 51-17 mark over the past two seasons. Penn State went 26-7 last season, won its first Big Ten regular-season title since 2004 and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

Seen as a rising star among women’s college coaches, Washington had a Big Ten competitor show immediate interest. After Michigan coach Kevin Borseth resigned on April 4, the Wolverines brought in Washington, a Flint, Mich., native, on April 11 to interview for the vacancy.

Less than a week after that interview, Washington and Joyner appeared at the April 16 news conference to announce that the Lady Lion coach was staying put and that she would receive a contract extension in the future.

“Sometimes to be sure about something you have to compare it and there’s no shame in that,” Washington explained at that news conference. “... Penn State is just the place for me. My heart is here and this is my home and I love it here. I really love it here.”

While the contract details have been worked out over the ensuing months, Washington and her staff have stayed busy landing oral commitments from one of the biggest recruiting classes in program history. Seven players, including four ranked among the nation’s Top 100 by ESPNHoopGurlz, have orally committed to Penn State for the Class of 2013 and are eligible to sign letters-of- intent during the early signing period in November.

Washington already has an oral commitment for the Class of 2015.

Walt Moody can be reached at 231-4630. Follow him on Twitter @wmoodycdt

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