When Jenny Przekwas was introduced as the fifth head coach in the history of the Washington State women’s basketball program, March 31, 1999, her goals were immediate.
“I am thrilled with the opportunity to lead the Cougar basketball program into the new millennium,” Przekwas said on the day of her hiring. “This is a great opportunity. The potential of the program to be competitive in the Pacific-10 Conference and nationally is exciting and I am excited about tapping into that.”
During the course of the 2000-01 season, WSU served notice to the Pac-10 Conference of its resurgence during the course of Przekwas’ second year at the helm of the Cougars.
For the first time since the 1994-95 season, WSU notched two wins over a ranked opponent in the same season (No.18 Oregon 67-64, Jan. 20 and No. 22 Arizona 93-86, Feb. 10).
In addition, the Cougars posted wins over USC and UCLA in the opening weekend of the conference season marking the first time since the 1991-92 campaign that the Cougars opened the Pac-10 season with two victories. The triumphs over USC and UCLA were the first time the Cougars swept the Los Angeles schools since 1995.
Maybe the most notable sign of the Cougars’ resurgence occurred Feb. 15 at Oregon. In the 77-76 win, WSU rallied from a 16-point first half deficit marking the second largest comeback in the history of the program. Additionally, the win at Oregon marked the fourth win when the Cougars rallied from a double-digit point deficit to capture a win during the 2000-01 campaign.
Coupled with an earlier 67-64 win over the Ducks at Pullman, WSU posted a season sweep over Oregon, marking the first time the Cougars swept a Pac-10 opponent since the 1997-98 season when the Cougars swept California. Furthermore, the Feb. 15 win over Oregon was the first road win over the Ducks since the 1992-93 season.
Rebuilding a program into a conference power is nothing new to Przekwas. Before arriving to the Palouse, Przekwas directed Saint Francis College of Pennsylvania squad to four consecutive NCAA Division I Tournaments (1996-99) in eight years with the Red Flash. While at St Francis, Przekwas compiled a 133-99 record overall and a 99-43 record in Northeast Conference play.
When she took over at Saint Francis in 1992, the school had not enjoyed a winning season since 1980. The turnaround came in 1994 when the Red Flash finished 15-14 overall and vaulted into second place in the league standings with a 12-6 record.
Over the next five years Saint Francis never had fewer than 18 wins and twice topped the 20-win plateau. From 1994 until leaving for the Palouse Przekwas guided her clubs to 99 wins and just 50 losses while capturing four league titles and with them automatic entry into the NCAA tournament.
The two-time conference coach of the year became the first Saint Francis coach to win the NEC title (1996), compete in the NCAA tournament (1996) and win 20 games (1997). Przekwas is also the school’s winningest coach in both wins (133), winning percentage (57 percent) and is the NEC holder of most tournament wins (16).
She also coached the team’s first conference player of the year, Stacy Alexander, who won the award in 1995. Included in her nine student-athletes who earned All-NEC first team honors were two other players (Mary Markey, Jess Zinobile) who captured NEC player of the year honors.
Focused on the importance of academic excellence, Przekwas’ 1996 team ranked third in the nation for cumulative grade point averages among NCAA Division I schools. Six members of her final Saint Francis squad recorded grade point averages of 3.00 or better in the fall.
That emphasis on academics has continued at Washington State. In each of Przekwas’ two seasons, the Cougars have had two representatives (Katie Nyseth, Victoria Harrod) on the Pac-10 All-Academic first team, the most of any conference school. In addition, the Cougars placed two other players (Jessica Collins, Jessica Ottmar) on the 2001 conference all-academic squad. In all, WSU has accumulated a total of eight conference All-Academic team selections under Przekwas’ tenure. In addition, Nyseth and Harrod each earned a 2001 Verizon Academic All-District VIII Women’s Basketball first team selection. WSU was the only school to have two representatives on the 2001 Verizon All-District VIII team.
Przekwas has had success both from the coaching ranks, and also as a player. During her undergraduate career at Wyoming, she set numerous school records, including career assists and steals. The two-time team captain’s single game and single season records remained the school’s high water mark for several years after her graduation in 1986.
While attending Denver’s Columbine High (’82), Przekwas earned All-Jefferson County Conference honors and as a senior was the conference’s athlete of the year. During her senior year she also was the school’s female hall of fame winner honoring the top all-around students. Przekwas participated in basketball, volleyball and track (sprints and jumps) as a high school student.
NAME: Genevieve L. (Jenny) Przekwas (Purr-ZEEK-was)
BORN: July 31, 1964, Denver, Colo.
HOMETOWN: Littleton, Colo.
HIGH SCHOOL: Columbine High, 1982 – School’s female hall of fame award winner honoring the top all-around senior students.
COLLEGE: University of Wyoming, 1986 – Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance...two-year captain for the Cowgirls...set school records for career assists (374) and steals (155)...holder of several single game and single season awards.
EXPERIENCE: Washington State University, 1999-Present – Head Coach.
Saint Francis College (PA), 1991-1999 – Winningest coach in school history, guiding team to four consecutive NEC titles and four straight NCAA Division I tournament appearances.
University of Wyoming, 1987-91 – Team won league title and finished with a school-best 24-8 record in 1990...during her five years as an assistant for Chad Lavin, the Cowgirls were 81-65.