Madonna grad turning Boston College women’s hoops around

BOSTON — A 14-16 record may appear only mediocre. Such is not the case when one is 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 B.C. 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. “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. 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 B.C. 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. 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 went 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 Blue Dons to three straight state tournament appearances, with 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.

She 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.

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