Araujo: Verdi wins ESPN women’s college basketball Coach of the Week honors

Verdi’s commitment to his players and the program shine since his arrival in 2016

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Caroline O’Connor / Daily Collegian

By Michael Araujo, Collegian Staff

Earlier this week, Massachusetts women’s basketball head coach Tory Verdi was recognized as the ESPN women’s college basketball Coach of the Week.

This honor is no small feat. Verdi and his players have worked tirelessly to help the program take the next step toward greatness. That means putting UMass (8-1) on the map, getting postseason victories and getting wins against big schools. All of which have been achieved.

“It was exciting,” Verdi said. “I didn’t expect it. We landed and as soon as I turned on [my phone] it was blowing up.”

Last season, UMass made a huge splash in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and became the first team in program history to achieve multiple victories in the postseason. Fast forward to this year, the Minutewomen exit last weekend’s Gulf Coast Showcase 2-1, with victories over South Dakota State and Kent State and the knowledge that they can go toe-to-toe with any team in the nation.

“I give all the credit to our players,” Verdi said. “That’s the reason why I got that [award]. It’s a team award. It’s not an individual award. I have a great coaching staff. I am not doing this by myself.”

Verdi has had a major impact on the program since signing on as the Minutewomen head coach back on April 9, 2016. Every year since his arrival, his squads have shown profound improvement. In Oct. 2021, his extension —which prolonged his tenure through the 2025-26 season— was announced. Of course, his players were thrilled.

“He’s big on relationships with his players,” Makennah White said. “So, I feel like when you have that relationship with your head coach, it allows you to have confidence in yourself and obviously your teammates because you know that he’s playing the right people, [and] he’s putting us in the right positions to be successful.”

During the 74-61 win over Fairfield on Wednesday, Verdi’s coaching style remained consistent. He could be seen with his arms crossed, attentively studying the game as it unfolded. When he saw something he did not like, he made sure his players were aware. Throughout the game, Verdi was heard exhausting his vocal cords, encouraging his players to rebound and hit their free throws.

“He’s tough,” Sam Breen said. “He’s the best. I think we all really feed off his energy, too. And he’s really consistent with having positive energy. We all know he’s going to coach us hard and that just means he cares.”

Verdi also knows school and academics come first. Every senior student athlete who has played for Verdi has graduated. In the spring semester of 2019, the team had a collective 3.32 grade-point average, the highest in a single term since the 2005-06 season.

“Even if we’re down like we were down 18 [against Iowa State], him being confident that we can dig out of that hole, I think that helps a lot,” Breen said. “He’s the G.O.A.T.”

Verdi brought UMass to an 8-1 record to start the season, and now he and the Minutewomen will return to the Mullins Center to try and improve on their hot start against UMass Lowell at 12 p.m. on Sunday.

Michael araujo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Araujo_Michael_.