For Coquese Washington, an Emotional Renewal of Vows
Coquese Washington held a press conference Monday afternoon. It came on short notice and without a stated purpose, but after reports last week that Washington had interviewed for the vacant head coach position at Michigan, it seemed obvious she was going to clarify her job status. Given that there were no rumors trickling out of Ann Arbor—and that it would be a joint press conference with Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner—the local media consensus was that Washington was staying put.
We guessed right on that. What none of us predicted was the emotion with which she explained her decision.
In 20 minutes at the Bryce Jordan Center media room, Washington repeatedly used words like family, community, and values. She invoked patriotism, Susan B. Anthony, and Dr. Martin Luther King. She re-confirmed her commitment to Penn State in dramatic and emphatic fashion.
Fresh off her fifth season as coach of the Lady Lions, with a Big Ten championship and NCAA Sweet 16 run recently added to her resume, Washington has confirmed the high expectations that came with her hiring. Her success understandably meant other big-time programs might try to pry her away, and while Michigan hasn’t traditionally been very strong in women’s basketball, the Wolverines’ overall athletic success—and the fact that Washington is a Michigan native—meant folks were taking this seriously.
Ultimately, Washington told reporters, we had nothing to worry about. And while she and Joyner acknowledged (without getting specific) that the coach’s contract would reflect her status was one of the most respected young coaches in the nation, Washington said money wasn’t the issue. She said much of what you might expect her to say, about how Penn State felt like home, about her loyalty to her players and staff. But she also made an indirect reference to the fallout from the Sandusky scandal, and when I asked her to clarify—if she didn’t want to be seen as running out on the university in a time of crisis— Washington’s reply was intense.
Speaking of how she’d seen Penn Staters rally in the wake of the scandal, Washington said:
…I see a university that is going to elevate itself because we’re willing to look at ourselves, examine ourselves, at a time, maybe not our best time, but we’re willing to say, “Is this the best that we can do for Penn State alums? Is this the best that we can do academically? Is this the best we can do for the community that supports us so well? Is this the best that we can do for higher education in the country?” That inspired me. That inspired me to be here and to stay here and to make myself and this program the best that it can be because we’re around people who take that challenge head on and we’re going to be better because of it. So, to answer your question, absolutely it was a consideration. Absolutely.
You can read the entire press conference transcript here. And you can count on Coquese Washington being around for a while.
Ryan Jones, senior editor