The Massachusetts women’s basketball team has a new head coach, and it’s one that is expected to be around for some time.
Just under a month after UMass announced it would not renew the contract of former coach Marnie Dacko, the athletic department signed Sharon Dawley, the former head coach at Vermont, to a seven-year contract to fill the vacancy.
“I am extremely pleased that Sharon is joining us,” UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon said in the team’s press release. “She has a proven record of success and is highly respected by her peers. We are very excited about the future of UMass women’s basketball.”
The seven-year contract is the longest signing for a coach while McCutcheon has been the Athletic Director at UMass. The exact terms of how much the deal is worth was not released because it was an agreement in principle and still had to work its way through the system.
Dawley leaves Vermont after leading the team to one of its most successful seasons. With a 27-7 record this past season, the Catamounts won a second consecutive America East championship and made it to their second-straight NCAA tournament.
After receiving a No. 10 seed, Vermont upset No. 7 Wisconsin in the first round, for its first ever NCAA tournament win, before falling to No. 2 Notre Dame in the Second Round.
Despite her success at Vermont, Dawley saw numerous things that made the job attractive to her and gave her reason to believe there was an opportunity at UMass for even greater success.
“The community, the facilities, the coaches, the conference,” Dawley said. “I don’t see anything that doesn’t say we can’t win here.
“Making the next step, watching the games this year, watching Xavier being two layups away from the Final Four, we have that possibility here. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not something you can turn down. The possibility is just very attractive.”
Dawley was also attracted to the Atlantic 10 conference and its caliber of play.
“I think it is an amazing conference,” Dawley said. “We were fortunate to beat Dayton on a neutral floor and then to see how well they did in the tournament. And [with] Xavier, where they are at now, I’m really fired up about this league. There is some tremendous basketball in this league and you can’t help but get excited about that.”
Prior to speaking at Tuesday’s press conference where her hiring was announced, Dawley met with the Minutewomen. She wanted to make sure her and her new players were on the same page as well as let them know her missions.
“We talked about being a team, we talked about moving forward, we talked about how excited we are to get better every day starting today just by talking and getting our goals on the table,” Dawley said. “I really just have one mission right now and that is to let the returners and the incoming freshman know that I am here for you guys 24/7 and I can’t wait to get going.”
According to Dawley, many of her staff from Vermont will be coming with her to UMass, and others will have opportunities to join her staff
In her seven seasons with the Catamounts, Dawley led the team to a 128-86 overall record with at least 20 wins coming in each of the last three seasons.
Prior to coaching at Vermont, Dawley spent six years as an assistant coach at Dartmouth from 1997-2003 and nine years as the head coach at Tufts from 1984-1993. While at Tufts, Dawley was 137-62 (.688) and never had a losing season.
“This all ready feels like home and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here,” Dawley said.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.