Fighting Irish will tangle with Lady Lions for first time since 2006.
Coquese Washington is in her eighth season as a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff and her second as associate head coach. She was promoted to her current position on Aug. 23, 2005 by Irish head coach Muffet McGraw.
Washington (first name pronounced ko-KWEES) has been a fixture with the Notre Dame women's basketball program for the majority of the 20-year McGraw era, having spent 12 seasons working with the veteran Irish mentor as either a player (1989-93) or coach (1999-present). In fact, during Washington's first seven seasons on the Notre Dame staff, the Irish have posted a sharp 168-57 (.747) record, including seven NCAA Tournament berths, four Sweet 16 appearances, and the 2001 national championship.
As associate head coach, Washington is responsible for coordinating Notre Dame's nationally-ranked recruiting efforts. Beginning with the incoming class of 1997, the Irish have attracted 10 consecutive top-25 recruiting classes, a feat that currently is matched by only two other women's basketball programs in the country. Washington also works closely with Notre Dame's guards, as well as developing the team's game schedules and assisting with scouting reports and practice planning.
"Coquese has a great sense of the game as both a player and a coach," McGraw said. "She makes great suggestions during the game and has a terrific understanding of what things are working and what needs to be changed. I trust her decisions, and because she played for me, she knows what I'm looking for and I know where she's coming from. Plus, she has played in the WNBA, which builds an added level of trust and respect with our players. I have complete confidence in what she has to say and what she brings to the table."
"It has been a joy for me to a part of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, going all the way back to my playing days here," Washington said. "It has been wonderful to see the growth of our program into a national power. We have a bright future ahead of us here at Notre Dame and I'm excited to be working so closely with our players and coaches, as we compete for many more national championships."
Since joining the Notre Dame coaching staff in time for the 1999-2000 season, Washington has been instrumental in the growth of the Irish backcourt. She has coached three All-Americans (Niele Ivey, Alicia Ratay and Megan Duffy), with those three players also earning all-BIG EAST Conference honors a total of nine times. Ivey, her first protege, received the 2001 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (nation's top senior under 5-foot-8) and went on to be a second-round WNBA Draft pick by the Indiana Fever, before moving on to her current team, the Phoenix Mercury.
Meanwhile, Ratay graduated in 2003 as the NCAA's career leader in three-point percentage (.476), not to mention the NCAA record holder for three-point percentage by a sophomore (.547 in 2000-01). Ratay also ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .872 free throw percentage, making her the only player to appear in the top 10 on the all-time three-point and free throw charts.
Duffy was the latest Washington pupil to achieve All-America status, twice garnering Associated Press honorable mention laurels, in addition to first-team all-BIG EAST plaudits. She also was the 2006 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner (making Notre Dame one of only three schools ever to have multiple recipients of the honor) and ranks among the top 10 a total of 34 times in the Notre Dame record books, including leading the conference and ranking among the top 10 nationally in free throw percentage her final two seasons (a school-record .895; fourth in the nation in 2004-05). In the summer of 2005, Duffy served as co-captain of the USA World University Games Team, starting all seven games and averaging 6.1 ppg. as the U.S. won the gold medal. A first-team Academic All-American in 2006, Duffy became Washington's second protégé to be selected in the WNBA Draft, going in the third round of the '06 selection meeting (31st overall pick) to the Minnesota Lynx.
Beyond her polished reputation for player development, Washington remains a student of the game through her scouting and game preparation abilities. During the past three seasons, Notre Dame has posted nine victories over nationally-ranked opponents in games she has scouted, including USC (2006), Utah (2006), Ohio State (2004 Preseason WNIT championship game), Purdue (2005), Boston College (twice in 2005), Miami (Fla.) (twice in 2004) and Virginia Tech (2004). In addition, she was responsible for a successful scouting report in the 2001 NCAA championship game against Purdue, a game the Irish ultimately won, 68-66.
Washington was a four-year monogram winner at Notre Dame, leading the team in steals in each of her four seasons and setting the pace in assists three times. She was a two-time all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference selection and helped lead the Irish to three MCC Tournament titles and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in 1992. Washington averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 assists per game during her career, and she ranks among the top 10 on Notre Dame's all-time charts for steals (second - 307), steals per game (first - 2.7 spg.), assists (fifth - 554), assists per game (fourth - 4.9 apg.), three-point field goals made (10th - 82) and minutes per game (10th - 27.6 mpg.).
In addition to her on-court prowess, Washington was a standout in the classroom as well. She graduated from the College of Arts and Letters in 1992, a full year ahead of schedule, with a bachelor's degree in history. She went on to attain "double Domer" status in 1997, earning her Juris Doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School.
After completing her athletic eligibility with the Irish in 1993 (and winning Notre Dame's prestigious Francis Patrick O'Connor Award following her final campaign), Washington went on to enjoy a stellar seven-year professional basketball career in the WNBA and the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL). She began her pro career in 1997-98 as the starting point guard with the ABL's Portland Power, before departing the next season to begin a two-year stint with the WNBA's New York Liberty. Washington capped off her tenure with the Liberty by helping her team reach the '99 WNBA Finals. A year later, she joined the Houston Comets and aided that squad to the 2000 WNBA Championship. That title, coupled with Notre Dame's NCAA crown eight months later, made Washington the first person ever to be a member of both championship teams simultaneously.
She followed the Comets' championship season with another strong campaign in 2001, ranking among the top 10 in the WNBA in assists (ninth) and steals (fourth) as the Comets made their fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Midway through the 2002 season, she was traded to the Indiana Fever, where she guided that club to its first-ever playoff berth and became the first player in WNBA history to lead three different squads to the postseason.
Washington also was particularly active with the WNBA Players Association (WNBPA) during her playing career. She was a central figure in helping WNBA players unionize initially, and she subsequently served as the first-ever president of the WNBA Players Association, leading the negotiations for the association's first collective bargaining agreement. Later on, as the group's executive vice president, she helped spearhead negotiations for the league's current collective bargaining agreement, a pact that ushered in the first free agency system in women's professional sports.
Born January 17, 1971 in Flint, Mich., Washington now resides in South Bend with her husband, Raynell Brown, and their one-year-old son, Quenton.