Madonna grad receives D-1 coaching award

WEIRTON — Joanna Bernabei-McNamee continues to land impressive honors as she ascends the collegiate coaching ladder.

The Weirton Madonna product — now head women’s basketball coach at the University at Albany — has been named as the 2017 Women’s Division I Coach of the Year by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York, Inc.

It was Bernabei-McNamee’s first year at the America East Conference school, and what a season it was. She led the Great Danes to 21 wins, pocketing the America East title along the way.

Albany won 12 of its final 14 games. The Great Danes earned an NCAA Tournament berth, only to draw juggernaut UConn in the opening round.

“I think this award is a reflection of how our team showed the resiliency to adjust to a new coaching staff,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “It also speaks volumes of the good job our coaches did in motivating our players all year long.”

Bernabei-McNamee landed the Albany post after a very successful stint at the University of Pikeville in Kentucky. She directed Pikeville to a 63-26 record during her three-year tenure at the NAIA school. She guided her charges to a 26-9 record and a Final Four berth in her final season at Pikeville. As a result, the former Blue Don was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association NAIA Regional Coach of the Year and the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year.

With one successful season on Albany under her belt, the former West Liberty hoop star is looking for a strong encore performance. NCAA rules limit practice in the summer. Bernabei-McNamee has been with her squad for only one week so far.

“The intensity has been great so far. We lost some nice players from graduation but I like our incoming class. We also did not have anyone transfer out,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “We have a solid core of players. But you are only as good as your leadership and we have that thanks to our unbelievable senior bunch.

“We have already starting recruiting for next year. We usually recruit within a six-hour hub of Albany. But this past year’s class included a girl from Colorado Springs,” she added. “The incoming class also has players from Staten Island, Maryland and Philadelphia. We also have commitments from two Canadians.”

Bernabei-McNamee enjoyed a brilliant Weirton Madonna career. She led the Lady Blue Dons to three straight state tournament appearances. The highlight being a state title her senior season.

She was named captain of the West Virginia Class A All-State Team and captain of the OVAC Class A-AA West Virginia squad in her senior season at Madonna. The multi-talented guard finished her prep career with 1,002 points and more than 500 career assists.

Bernabei-McNamee selected West Liberty to continue her academic and basketball careers. She again authored a brilliant basketball resume, earning All-American honors while being named WVC Player of-the-Year.

Bernabei-McNamee launched her coaching career at West Virginia Wesleyan. That was followed by stops at Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and the University of Maryland, helping guide the Lady Terps to a national title.

Bernabei-McNamee made the seven-hour plus drive from Albany to Weirton on Independence Day to celebrate her mother’s birthday.

It was a quick stay as she flew out of Pittsburgh Wednesday morning on a recruiting junket.

“Albany has established a great women’s basketball tradition. We hope to keep building on it,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “The conference will be real competitive again next season. New Hampshire has a real strong group coming back. But we relish the challenge.”

Joanna and her husband Joe McNamee have two sons, Luke (10) and Caden (9).

BUBBA’S BITS

HIGH SCHOOL football is nearly upon us. The OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Classic unfolds in 13 days at the Dave Bruney Football Complex in Martins Ferry.

DESPITE ALL the moves made by the Boston Celtics they are still only the second best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers are tops in the East until King James moves on. And unless the Warriors lose one of their big four due to injury they will repeat as champions.

OHIO HAS produced the fifth most Major League Baseball players. The top four states in order are California, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois.

THE OVAC will be hosting its annual free youth football clinic in conjunction with the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic on Saturday, July 22, at the Dave Bruney Football Complex in Martins Ferry. Registration will take place at the stadium from noon to 12:45 p.m. The clinic runs from 1-2:30 p.m. Cameron head coach Scott Holt is the clinic director. For more information, visit www.OVAC.org or email: james@ssmllc.com or phone 304-639-1238.

JOHN NESE was a Hall of Famer in every aspect of life. He was a great player, passionate educator, superb coach, tremendous umpire and an entertaining broadcaster. But above all that, he was the ultimate people person. You always felt better after being with John. The OVAC Hall of Famer died Thursday. John made the world a much nicer place during his 78 years.

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