Year: Ninth Season (11th overall) at VCU
Virginia Commonwealth University’s all-time winningestcoach, Beth Cunningham enters her ninth season at the helm and her11th year overall with the VCU women’s basketballprogram. A former WNBA player and Notre Dame’s all-timeleading scorer, Cunningham spent two years as an assistant with theRams before taking over the reins at the conclusion of the 2002-03campaign.
Cunningham has sparked a revival of sort in Richmond. Postseasonberths, postseason honors and players moving onto the professionalranks have highlighted recent years for the Rams underCunningham’s watch.
Cunningham’s appointment in 2003 marked the dawn of a newera in VCU women’s basketball history. For the first time inseven years, the Rams took the court under new management. Theformer All-American inherited a team that had gone 94-105 under thelast regime and boasted only two winning seasons in seven years.She quickly began to restructure the program and reshape herplayers into hard-working, determined athletes eager to compete andwin. Cunningham also spent countless hours on the road, recruitingthe right personnel to complete both her staff and her roster.
The coach’s time and effort paid off. In her first season(2003-04), the young coach paced the Rams to an even 14-14 overallrecord, including a 10-8 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association— tying for fourth-place among conference contenders.Cunningham’s sixth-seeded squad also made quite a splash inthe league tournament, upsetting third-seeded Hofstra in thequarterfinals.
DID YOU KNOW?
2 CAA Defensive Players of the Year
1 CAA Rookie of the Year
1 Freshman All-American
1 Associated Press All-American
18 All-CAA Performers
16 CAA All-Academic Honorees
6 CAA All-Defensive Team Selections
3 CAA All-Rookie Team Members
During her second season at the helm, Cunningham’s Ramsexperienced a few growing pains, as the youthful squad boasted sixplayers new to the college game and reeled from the loss of one ofthe program’s most prolific scorers. VCU finished the seasona disappointing 11-18, but gained valuable experience both on andoff the court.
In 2005-06 the seeds Cunningham and her staff had plantedthrough unwavering recruiting efforts began to bear fruit.
Despite fielding one of the nation’s youngest teams,including the country’s youngest player, Cunningham steeredVCU to a 13-15 mark. Additionally, redshirt freshman QuanitraHollingsworth, plucked out of Old Dominion’s backyard inChesapeake, Va., became the first Freshman All-American and CAARookie of the Year in school history.
The 2007-08 campaign brought further progress, this time inrecord-shattering fashion. VCU captured the most victories (26) inthe history of the program. The Rams also claimed school recordsfor road wins, home wins, conference wins and winning percentage.In addition, she guided the Rams to their first CAA Championshipgame and an appearance in the second round of the Women’sNational Invitation Tournament.
The winning tradition continued during the 2008-09 season as theRams matched a school record with 26 victories and produced thefirst undefeated campaign in Siegel Center history with a perfect16-0 mark at home. Cunningham’s squad gained therespect of the NCAA Selection Committee as the Rams received anat-large berth and made the program’s first-ever appearancein the NCAA Tournament.
After back-to-back postseason appearances, Cunningham’ssquad was poised for yet another record-breaking year in2009-10. The Rams turned in a program-best third-straight20-win campaign and made a return trip to the Postseason WNIT,where VCU defeated Saint Joseph’s and Hofstra before fallingat Syracuse in the third round. It marked the third straightpostseason appearance for VCU, which stood as the most in schoolhistory. Cunningham also led the Black & Gold to itsfirst victory at 17-time league champion Old Dominion in more thanthree decades following a 75-56 win on Feb. 7, 2010. Perhapseven more impressive, the Rams handed the Lady Monarchs just theirfourth (and most lopsided) CAA home loss in 19 seasons.
VCU’s postseason run continued in 2010-11 with theprogram’s fourth-straight appearance thanks in part to juniorCourtny Hurt’s breakout campaign. A honorable mentionAssociated Press All-American, Hurt led the nation inrebounding (12.4 rpg) and double-doubles (25) while ranking secondin the NCAA in scoring (23.2 ppg). She set VCU’ssingle-season marks in points (720), scoring average, rebounding(385), rebounding average, field goals (253), free throws (193) anddouble-doubles. The Naismith Trophy candidate also set theColonial Athletic Association’s double-doubles record and isone of 17 players in NCAA history to post 25 or more in oneseason. Hurt garnered first team All-CAA accolades to goalong with first team All-State honors from both the RichmondTimes Dispatch and the Virginia Sports Information DirectorsAssociation (VaSID). She also joined Hollingsworth as thesecond player in program history to receive an invite to the USABasketball trials. In addition to Hurt’s successfulcampaign, Cunningham guided the Rams to their first-ever seasonsweep of league power Old Dominion.
Under Cunningham’s tutelage, two former players have beendrafted into the WNBA. In 2008, Krystal Vaughn became thefirst player from VCU to be selected in the draft as she was chosenin the third round by the Washington Mystics, one ofCunningham’s former teams. The Minnesota Lynx selectedHollingsworth with the ninth overall pick in 2009 as she became thehighest ever selection by a VCU student-athlete in any professionaldraft. VCU joined Old Dominion as the only schools in leaguehistory to have back-to-back WNBA selections.
The success of Cunningham’s teams has helped garner a hostof honors for herself. Not only did Cunningham becomeVCU’s all-time winningest coach in 2009 with her 95th careervictory on Jan. 18, she was also named Virginia Coach of the Yearby the Richmond Times-Dispatch for the second straight year afterleading the Rams to back-to-back postseason appearances, whileposting a 93-39 mark since the start of the 2007-08 campaign.
Under the watchful eye of Cunningham, VCU has become one of thepremier defensive teams in the nation and a true contender for aleague title. During the 2008-09 season, the Rams led the CAAand ranked 11th in the nation in scoring defense, surrendering just54 points per game.
“To see what Beth’s team has done in her time hereis a testament to her, her staff and the level of student-athletesshe has brought into this program,” said current VCU athleticdirector Norwood Teague. “She has increased the level ofpride around the program. There is a buzz around thisteam.”
Cunningham brings both an extensive knowledge of the game and atremendous will to succeed. She molded herself into an All-Americanplayer at her alma mater, Notre Dame, through sheer hard work anddetermination — qualities that VCU was confident wouldtranslate into further success as a head coach.
“My goal is to help make VCU a consistent and respectedforce in the [CAA] on our way to becoming more of a nationallyrecognized program,” stated Cunningham. “The players Iwant to coach are the players who want to maximize theirpotential.”
Cunningham enjoyed a stellar four-year career at Notre Dame andwas instrumental in the Irish’s rise to their current statusas one of the nation’s elite teams. The all-time leadingscorer in Notre Dame’s women’s basketball history, shecompiled an astounding 2,322 career points and earned All-Americahonors twice during her career.
A four-year starter for the Irish and a member of three NCAAtournament squads, Cunningham was named an Associated Press andKodak honorable mention All-American in 1995-96 after averagingmore than 20 points per game during her junior season.
The following year she led Notre Dame to a 31-win campaign andthe program’s first-ever NCAA Final Four appearance,highlighted by a 36-point performance in the Irish’s“Sweet 16” victory over Alabama that still stands as anNCAA East Regional single-game record. She was rewarded followingher senior season with a second consecutive appearance on the Kodakand AP All-America honorable mention teams.
After graduating from Notre Dame in 1997 with a bachelor’sdegree in marketing, Cunningham was drafted by the Richmond Rage inthe second round of that year’s American Basketball Leaguedraft.
After spending two seasons with the franchise, which moved toPhiladelphia prior to the 1997-98 season, she signed with theWNBA’s Washington Mystics following the ABL’sdisbandment. Cunningham played in 21 games with the Mystics in 2000before embarking on her coaching career with VCU. Eight yearslater, one of her first recruits suited up in a Mystics uniformwhen Vaughn made her WNBA debut in 2008.
“Coach Cunningham was a big reason for my success,”Vaughn said. “She always believed in me and she always hadfaith in me. I couldn’t have made it without someone likeCoach Cunningham behind me.”
Cunningham also has a wealth of international playing experienceas a former member of several U.S. national teams, including the1997 U.S. squad that captured the gold medal at the WorldUniversity Games and the 1999 team that won a bronze at thatyear’s Pan American Games. Cunningham also helped Team USA toa second-place finish at the 1997 World Championship qualifyingtournament in Brazil, which earned the U.S. a spot in the 2000Summer Olympics. In March 2009, Cunningham was selected toserve on the USA Basketball Committee from 2009-2012 as AthleteRepresentative for the Junior National Team.
A native of Bloomington, Ind., Cunningham still holds the careerscoring record at Bloomington South High School, where she was anall-state performer in both basketball and tennis. A hometownlegend of sorts, she was inducted into the Monroe County SportsHall of Fame in June 2011. Her father, Bob Morgan, was thelongtime head baseball coach at Indiana University before steppingdown in 2005. Cunningham and her husband, Dan, reside inRichmond.
Virginia Commonwealth University, M.S., 2003
University of Notre Dame, B.S., 1997
Bloomington South High School, 1993
2003-present: VCU, Head Coach
2002-03 VCU: Associate Head Coach
2001-02 VCU: Assistant Coach
2000: WNBA, Washington Mystics
1997-2000: Team USA
1997-98: ABL, Philadelphia Rage
1993-97: University of Notre Dame
1999: Bronze Medal recipient, Pan American Games
1997: Gold Medal recipient, World University Games; All-timeleading scorer at Notre Dame (2,322 points)
1996, 1997: Kodak All-American, Honorable Mention
1996, 1997: Associated Press All-American, Honorable Mention
1996, 1997: All-Big East First Team; Notre Dame Team Captain
1994, 1995: All-Midwestern Collegiate First Team
COACHING CAREER AT VCU (2003-PRESENT)
- Served as an assistant (2001-02) and as associate head coach(2002-03) before assuming head coaching duties in 2003-04.
- VCU's all-time winningest coach with 148 career victories
- Has guided the Rams to four-straight postseason appearances,including the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament withan at-large selection in 2009
- Averaged 23 wins per year since 2007 with three straight 20-wincampaigns from 2007-10 (most successful four-year run in schoolhistory)
- Led VCU to back-to-back 26-win seasons (both school records)including an undefeated campaign at home in 2008-09
- Has coached seven professional players, including a pair ofWNBA draft picks in 2008 and 2009
- Two of her players have earned All-America honors, mostrecently CourtneyHurt (a Naismith Trophy candidate, which is awardedannually to the nation's best women's basketball player) who ledthe NCAA in rebounding and double-doubles, and ranked second in thenation in scoring in 2010-11
- Since joining VCU as an assistant, Cunningham has coached twoCAA Players of the Year, two CAA Defensive Players of the Year, oneCAA Rookie of the Year, two All-Americans, 18 All-CAA performers,16 CAA All-Academic honorees, six CAA All-Defensive Team selectionsand three CAA All-Rookie selections
USA BASKETBALL CAREER
- Has a wealth of international playing experience as a member ofseveral United States national teams, including the 1997 U.S. squadthat captured the gold medal at the World University Games and the1999 team that won a bronze in the Pan American Games
- Helped Team USA to a second-place finish at the 1997 WorldChampionship qualifying tournament in Brazil, which earned the U.S.a spot in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
- Is currently serving a four-year term on the USA BasketballCommittee as an Athlete Representative for the Junior NationalTeam… previously served on the Women's Collegiate Committeeas an athlete representative from 2005-08
COLLEGIATE CAREER AT NOTRE DAME (1993-1997)
- Enjoyed a stellar four-year career at Notre Dame and wasinstrumental in the Irish's rise to their current status as one ofthe nation's elite programs.
- Averaged better than 18 points per game during her fourseasons, finishing her career as the school's all-time leadingscorer (2,322 points)… Also earned four All-Americahonors
- Was part of three NCAA Tournament squads, including theprogram's first-ever NCAA Final Four appearance during a 31-win,1997 campaign… Used a 36-point performance to help lead theIrish to a Sweet Sixteen victory over Alabama, an NCAA EastRegional single-game record
HIGH SCHOOL CAREER AT BLOOMINGTON SOUTH
- Holds the school's all-time scoring record
- All-State performer in basketball and tennis