Coaches Corner: Joan Bonvicini

PHOTO+COURTESY+OF+MOLLIE+HANKE.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MOLLIE HANKE.

She’s coached at four different universities, has been voted Coach of the Year numerous times and was the finalist for the U.S. Olympic Basketball team in 1976. She is Joan Bonvicini, Seattle University’s women’s basketball head coach. Basketball is her passion and coaching is her calling. Along with passion, Bonvicini believes that the key to success is hard work and integrity. These three things are ingrained in her and she is now passing them on to the players she coaches. Recently, she earned her 700th career victory as head coach, which only 16 other head coaches in Division I women’s basketball have accomplished. This year, Bonvicini hopes to lead the team to the NCAA. We sat down with Coach Bonvicini.

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Joan Bonvicini, head coach of Seattle University’s Women’s Basketball team.

YV: What is it about basketball that you like?

JB: When I was little, 2-years-old, my parents knew I was a really good athlete. I was very much encouraged to be an athlete. I was good in softball and basketball. And so softball, I played on the best team in the United States. My coach was the Olympic coach. I was very fortunate I had great coaches at the highest level since I was a little kid… I absolutely love sports. I loved both [softball and basketball] but I quit playing softball as I entered college because I just wanted to focus on basketball. It was my passion.

YV: Why coaching? You were 25-years-old when you were offered the head coach position. You could have continued playing in college.

JB: You’re passionate about what you do and you find a way. I did it everyday. I loved it. I loved the relationship I had with my players. It was fun. I’m a super competitive person but what coaching is, is really teaching. Our classrooms are a little bit different. It’s not just the teaching of how to score and how to play defense, you’re teaching life lessons…The cool thing about basketball is you bring people with all these different backgrounds, but they’re in for a common thing, and the common thing is that they love in this sport. And you know, you’re learning about teamwork, you’re learning about goal setting. I get people to do things they’d never thought they could do, so I’m the person who finds a way, I see something special in them. Sometimes they haven’t even seen that themselves. So I find that thing and help them grow it. That’s what I do.

YV: How do you build a team? How do you make the players get along with each other?

JB: That’s the hardest thing. In order to have a good team, sure, you need talent…but it’s really the chemistry and the ability to put aside your individual goal for the common goal and that’s teamwork. That’s leadership. That’s how you go from being an average to mediocre team to being a really good team. That’s how you win a lot of games. So it’s not just having talent. It’s about finding that confidence, being able to get along with other people. We have kids from different backgrounds of learning coming together with that common thing they love. I know I’ve made an impact, which is probably the most rewarding thing of all of it. The winning is great, believe me… But as much [of] an impact I’ve made, they’ve made as much or more on me. I can motivate. I’m very demanding of myself that we’re going to work extremely hard…No matter what you’re going to do you have to sacrifice and you have to work. When you’re young, you might get by not studying a lot, but if you really want to be special, you have to do stuff to set you apart. The people who are really good work extra hard.

YV: Do you have any coaching
role models?

JB: My college coach was definitely my mentor, Louis O’Neill, she was great—and still is. She taught me a lot of lessons like integrity. So the bottom-line, in order to be good at anything, you have to work really hard. First of all, you have to have a vision of where you want to go. You have to have a vision both short term and long term. I’m a firm believer of writing it down and looking at it. Not just looking at it, but saying it. That’s why when I came[to Seattle U], I said out loud we were going to win a championship and I say it to the players. Because when you say it out loud, you have to own it now.

YV: How has your experience at Seattle U differed from the other campuses you’ve coached at?

JB: Every place has its own culture and expectations. I think the difference is, when you’re at a school like Seattle U, it’s very competitive….When you do something good here, people pat you on the back. When you’re at the other schools, they say ‘good’, but that’s what you’re expected to do. Here, because it’s smaller, you’re able to stand out maybe a little bit more.

YV: Thinking long term, what is it you’d like to accomplish?

JB: Well, I want to take this team to the NCAA tournament; we’re trying to do that this year. And I’d like to coach for a number of years. I feel great, am in great health, and have good relationships with my players. I’m making a difference. As long as I continue to make a difference, feel good and Father Steve says to me ‘Joan, I still want you to be a coach,’ I’ll coach. I love coaching here.

YV: Right now the team sits 8-9 overall, what are your thoughts
on this?

JB: We were consistently inconsistent and we’ve played some good people. We’re starting now to hit our stride. Every team in the country has had injuries, we’ve had injuries and are missing players, but I think this team is starting to figure things out. Right now we’re first place in the conference and that’s where we’re trying to stay.

YV: So what are the goals for
this season?

JB: The goal for this season is to win the WAC title, win the conference tournament in Las Vegas and advance to the NCAA.

YV: How far is the team from reaching those goals?

JB: Right now we’re 2-0 in the conference, and we’re tied for first place… We go a game at a time, trying not to look ahead. You have to live in the moment. So you take care of what has to be done right now and right now we want to have a good practice and then get ready and go.

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