When legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer announced her retirement after a 50-year coaching career, Rutgers University undertook a national search to find her successor. Three weeks later, Coquese Washington was announced as the new head coach of Scarlet Knights women’s basketball, just the third full-time head coach in the program’s history.
“I’m excited about the challenge and looking forward to it,” said Washington. “I can’t speak enough about what an honor it is to follow in the footsteps of Coach Stringer and Coach [Theresa] Grentz (Stringer’s predecessor) and what they’ve accomplished and built over the years. I’m the lucky one who gets to be next.
“I can’t believe how blessed and fortunate I am to have this opportunity to walk in here with all of this history, all of the accomplishments,” she added. “It’s a wonderful guide for me in terms of how to establish a level of excellence that this community is used to for the past 40-plus years.”
As a pro, Washington played two seasons with the New York Liberty and won a WNBA title with the Houston Comets. She began her coaching career in 1999 at her alma mater, Notre Dame, serving as assistant coach and then associate head coach. From 2007 to 2019, she was head coach at Penn State. The past two years, Washington returned to the Notre Dame coaching staff.
When Stringer became a head coach, there were not many Black female head coaches in Division I and she has spoken of how lonely she felt. Washington is part of the Women of Color Coaching Network, where members connect and help each other through some of the struggles that are unique to them.
After college and before she entered the WNBA, Washington attended law school at Notre Dame, so she understands guiding her players to see wide horizons. In addition to being highly competitive on the basketball court, she wants the players to take advantage of the whole university so they don’t simply earn a degree but become highly educated.
“One of the things that we’ll do here at Rutgers is make sure that they understand how many resources there are available and to get outside of the athletic silo and make yourself a part of the Rutgers University community, not just the Rutgers athletic community or the women’s basketball community,” Washington said. “There are so many great minds on our campus.”