Penn State Hires Coquese Washington As Women's Coach

Washington has been an assistant to Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw

April 23, 2007

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Penn State hired Coquese Washington as the women's basketball coach on Monday, replacing successful but controversial Rene Portland, who resigned earlier this month.

"I am ecstatic to be here. It is an awesome opportunity to come into a program that has such a rich tradition," Washington said in a statement. She was to be introduced at a news conference Monday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

Washington was an assistant at Notre Dame under coach Muffet McGraw the past eight years.

Portland went 606-236 at Penn State in a 27-year career, stepping down a month after she and the university settled a lawsuit by a former player who claimed Portland had a "no-lesbian" policy.

Washington played for the Irish from 1989-93, helping the program to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 1992. She went on to play in the now-defunct ABL and the WNBA, where she guided the Houston Comets to the 2000 WNBA title.

An assistant at Notre Dame since 1999, Washington was promoted to associate head coach two years ago. She helped McGraw lead Notre Dame to the 2001 national title.

Washington has a law degree from Notre Dame, and served as the first president of the WNBA Players Association.

Earlier this season, Portland became the ninth women's basketball coach to win 600 games at one school. Portland guided Penn State to 21 NCAA tournament appearances.

But the program slipped to 13-16 in 2005-06 - the Lady Lions' first losing season in 33 years - and finished 15-16 this season.

Allegations from former player Jennifer Harris dogged her, too.

In a December 2005 lawsuit, Harris accused Portland of "humiliating, berating and ostracizing" her, and claimed she was told she needed to look more feminine. The suit alleged Portland tried to force Harris, who says she is not gay, to leave the team.

Penn State conducted an investigation last year and threatened to fire Portland for any future violation of the school's nondiscrimination policy. She was fined $10,000 by the university and ordered to take professional development "devoted to diversity and inclusiveness."



Portland maintained Harris' departure was related to basketball issues and disagreed with the school's findings.