Joan Bonvicini will lead her Seattle University squad back to her old stomping ground, playing at Long Beach State on Friday to begin the final stretch of the Redhawks schedule. Bonvicini began her career there, accumulating a 325-71 record from 1979-91.
She’s made trips back since while coaching at Arizona, blowing out the program she established, winning 10 conference championships with 10 berths to the NCAA Tournament, including Final Four appearances in 1987 and 1988. Aside from her first year with the Wildcats, this is Bonvicini’s first time returning on equal footing as LBS.
The Redhawks are 5-17 overall while the 49ers are 5-18, winning two of their past three games.
Second-year coach Jody Wynn, a former USC assistant coach, is trying to bring more of Beach’s tradition back, planning an alumni night for Friday’s matchup. Current Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler, one of Bonvicini’s prized recruits, will be given the game ball and Bonvicini will be honored along with former players.
“It’s going to be really nice,” Bonvicini said of the planned postgame reception. “I talk to those kids, but I don’t see them enough.”
Bonvicini plans to take her current team to a favorite Italian restaurant she used to frequent and they’ll stay near her former campus. But the primary focus will be finishing games. After a good start to her second season, SU has tapered off, not being able to closeout when holding a lead.
Part of the reasoning is young talent and new faces. Yet, with eight games remaining, Bonvicini would like to see the Redhawks click. Junior Elle Kerfoot has been the most consistent player, averaging 12.2 points, while junior college transfer Daidra Brown, a sophomore, ranks 18th in the nation in steals (3.1).
“I’ve had to redefine the course to really hold people accountable and bring up the level of play and expectations,” Bonvicini said. “We’ve had moments of playing very good basketball, particularly for a lot of halves. But haven’t been able to sustain that for a whole game. Being successful is a lot of things, but a lot of it is your mental toughness.”
On Deck: Seattle U will host their annual “Think Pink” game on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. against Eastern Washington. Proceeds will benefit the Kay Yow Foundation.
Can You See Me?: Seattle U has live video streaming for all Redhawk women’s home games. Streaming is free and can be accessed on www.GoSeattleU.com.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Bonvicini from the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame