Madonna grad changing BC hoop culture

BOSTON – A 14-16 record may appear only mediocre. Such is not the case when you are talking Boston College women’s basketball.

Joanna (Bernabie) McNamee’s initial year at the Eagles’ helm was marked by drastic improvement for a program steeped in losing. The Madonna High athletic legend inherited a 7-23 squad, one that went 2-14 in the ACC.

The Eagles were predicted to finish in the basement of the 15-team loop this year. McNamee, however, has quickly turned BC into a solid ACC outfit, one that will certainly trend upward next year.

“In all of my years coaching it was probably was the worst record I have ever experienced. But it was also one of the most enjoyable,” McNamee said in a phone interview Thursday while vacationing with her family in Hilton Head. “We coached a group that accepted a new staff with open arms and bought into what we were teaching them. They were a hard-working group with a great attitude.

“It was a mature group and one that I looked forward to be with every practice and every game,” she added. “It makes for a nice season when you enjoy being with your team every day.”

McNamee took over an Eagles team that were bottom-feeders in the ACC. And although she elevated them several places up the ladder, McNamee realizes much work remains.

“We have a ways to go before we even reach the middle of the pack in the ACC. It is one of the premier women’s basketball conferences in the nation,” she said. “The ACC sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. That speaks volumes on how strong it is.”

With that said, McNamee, who has cultivated great success at every one of her coaching stops, is optimistic about the future of BC women’s hoops.

“Having a year under our belts working with this bunch will be of great help. We are bringing back a good group,” McNamee said. “They know what to expect from us and we know what to expect from them.

“We are adding three players who I feel can really help us. We are bringing in a transfer from Colorado. She is a 1-2,” she added. “We are also bringing in an athletic 3-4 and an athletic 5. Those two will really help give us much better size. So, I am excited where we are headed with this program.”

McNamee came to Boston College after two successful campaigns at the University of Albany. McNamee guided Albany to 21-12 and 24-8 marks the last two seasons.

Prior to her two years at Albany, McNamee enjoyed an impressive 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.

The West Liberty and OVAC Hall of Famer enjoyed a brilliant Madonna career. She carried 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.

McNamee selected West Liberty to continue her academic and basketball careers. She again scripted 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.

Joanna and her husband, Joe McNamee, have two sons, Luke and Caden.


DENNISON UNIVERSITY is having another stellar season in baseball, owning a 22-2 mark heading into this weekend’s action. The Big Red’s coaching staff has much Ohio Valley flavor.

Mike Deegan is in his seventh year at the Dennison helm. His father, Denny, is a Wheeling Central grad and former Maroon Knight multi-sport standout. Deegan owns a sparkling 175-95 record at the Denison helm. Deegan’s top assistant is Ryne Romick. The former River High diamond gem is in his second tour of duty with the Big Red.

Romick authored a tremendous baseball playing career at the University of Akron. In addition to Denison, Romick has coached at Ohio University and the University of Dayton.


BELLA CICOGNA turned in a strong performance in the recent Georgia high school state swimming championships. The Johns Creek High junior placed seventh in the 200-yard IM and 11th in the 100-yard Fly. She was also a member of her school’s 200-yard medley unit which took home eighth place. Bella is the daughter of Shadyside native and former St. John Central standout gridder and track athlete Sam Cicogna. Johns Creek High is located in suburban Atlanta.

WEST LIBERTY enjoyed a fine women’s basketball season. Morgan Brunner was a key part of that success. The former Linsly School 1,000-point producer led all D-II players in three-point goals made (108) as well as three-point percentage per game (3.48). The 5-9 junior also was eighth national in three-point percentage (44.6%). She is definitely a shooting star.

THE OVAC Sam Mumley Basketball Classic played out seamlessly a week ago at Ohio University Eastern. Game Director J.R. Battista and Assistant Game Director Lindsay Ammirante deserve many kudos for staging a first-class event with no hiccups.

KUDOS go out to Wheeling Park’s Dwaine Rodgers on a most prestigious honor. Rodgers was recently name the West Virginia Athletics Director of the Year. It was an honor well earned as Rodgers is as accommodating and efficient as an athletic director can be.

ROB CHAVANAK, meanwhile, was named OVAC Athletic Director of the Year. Chavanak, like Rodgers, is superb at what he does in the realm of Monarch athletics while also being media friendly.

FORMER LINSLY grid star Von Wooding has been named captain of the Oberlin football team for the 2019 season.

JIM CRUTCHFIELD’S special second season at Nova Southeastern got a little sweeter when he was recently awarded the Jack Bennett Award. The national award goes to the coach who personifies winning with integrity. The former West Liberty hoop boss led the Sharks to the Elite Eight this season.

NOLAN CLEGG is doing good things for the 18-16 Ohio State University baseball team this spring. The former Toronto High star has started 12 games, compiling a .300 batting average with two home runs.

ANOTHER FORMER Red Knight prep star is turning in a solid season with the 7-25 Youngstown State baseball team. Blaze Glenn is hitting .254 with four homers and 14 RBI. He has started all 32 games for the Penguins.

FORMER WVU hoop great Jevon Carter finished up his rookie season in the NBA with Memphis in grand fashion. He dropped in 32 points against the Warriors in the season finale. For the season, Carter played in 39 games for the Grizzlies, averaging 4.4 points, 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest.

THE NBA playoffs commenced this weekend. My pick is for the Warriors to again win the title, this time besting the Celtics in the finals.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)