get complete details of Louise O’Neal, who died on September 17, was a Hall of Famer and pioneer of women’s basketball – Hartford Courant
from here, checkout more details.
Lisa Brummel, one of the owners of the Seattle Storm, likes to joke with Sue Bird about how her varsity team used to beat Bird’s varsity back in the day.
Yale beat UConn three years in a row from 1976 to 1978, including an 82-37 drubbing in 1976. Brummel was a Yale freshman in 1977, graduating in 1981 and helping Yale win its only Ivy League title. in women’s basketball in 1979.
The team was coached by Louise O’Neal, a women’s basketball pioneer who had led southern Connecticut to eight consecutive women’s basketball national championship appearances, including four trips to the Final Four.
O’Neal, who was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017, died on September 17 at 83 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
She mentored many, including former Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini, and coached two Olympians, Mary Anne O’Connor and Sue Rojcewicz, who helped the United States win a silver medal in 1976.
For Brummel, a graduate of Staples High in Westport who went on to a 25-year career as a C-suite executive at Microsoft and now co-owns Storm with fellow Yale graduate Ginny Gilder and former Microsoft colleague Dawn Trudeau, O’ Neal was a model of discipline. And he had heard of her long before he came to Yale.
“I think Louise was the first to introduce me to the real discipline — the discipline of preparing for a game,” Brummel said Friday. “In high school, we practiced, but we didn’t really prepare for the game; In other words, what will the other team do? What should you do? When you think of playing, what should you expect?
“I would say that the overall preparation for a game was second to none as far as Louise is concerned. She had incredible confidence as an athlete and I don’t think I really realized this until after I played for her; I never worried if the coach was going to call the right play. Whatever she told me to do, she was going to do it, without a doubt, with nothing.
“Now, having been involved for many years in all kinds of sports at different levels, particularly now owning a professional women’s basketball team, coaches are being questioned by players every two seconds. So I realize the value of a coach that you can trust and believe in and who has complete command of the game and Louise was my first experience with someone who really had complete command of the game.”
O’Neal had played basketball at Texas before coming to then-Southern Connecticut State College in 1962. She was hired to teach physical education, but was also in charge of volleyball, basketball and badminton and ended up overseeing the transition of the women’s basketball program from a club team to a varsity team and in the Title IX era. She went to clinics and was a student of John Wooden. She liked to press and run. She was innovative.
“She looked at our talent and said, ‘We can play a fast-paced game,’” said Rojcewicz, who played on three Final Four teams at Southern from 1973-75. “I remember a turning point for us, she was like, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ Because she was going to push us. Nobody was doing weightlifting back then, conditioning, nobody was doing anything like that.
“We said, ‘Yeah, we want to be pushed.’ We called ourselves ‘The Roadrunners’. Constant pressure and operation.”
But Southern never made it to the final. In 1973, Southern lost to eventual champion Immaculata 47-45 in the national semifinals and finished third. The Owls lost to Mississippi College 67-63 in the national semifinals and finished third again in 1974. In 1975, they lost to eventual champion Delta State 71-68 in the semifinals and finished fourth.
“I think [the fast pace] cost us the game against Immaculata, I hate to say it,” said Rojcewicz, also a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. “We were up like 10 points, it was running out. We probably should have slowed it down, but you know, we just kept going. They gave a small boost. They played the ball at the buzzer. Theresa Shank. It was always the semifinals.”
Immaculata, who won national titles between 1972 and 1974, shot to Hollywood stardom when the movie “Mighty Macs” was released in 2009.
Meanwhile, O’Neal moved from Southern to Yale, then went on to management at Dartmouth and Wellesley and remained there for the rest of his career. She did not seek the spotlight.
“I always kept a low profile and didn’t seek recognition,” O’Neal said in 2017 before her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Of his southern teams, he said, “I think we were an interesting and skillful team. We use multiple defenses. The men were doing that, but women’s football was not doing that.”
O’Neal went 144-37 at Southern and made eight straight appearances in the women’s national tournament. The Owls finished third in the country in 1971, a year before the first Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament. They finished third in the AIAW Tournament in 1973 and 1974 and fourth in 1975. The AIAW disbanded in 1982 after the NCAA took over women’s varsity athletics.
“She was a true student of the game and she was kind of a visionary,” O’Connor said. “She was not satisfied with any kind of status quo when it came to anything.”
Bonvicini, who has more than 700 wins at Long Beach State, Arizona and Seattle University and is now a television analyst for the Pac-12 Network, said O’Neal acted similarly as an administrator.
“The coaches under her command had great respect for her, but more than anything, what they really appreciated was her mentorship,” Bonvicini said. “She made sure her trainers were paid what they were worth and given a budget that was what they needed. But she expected a lot from you.
Brummel was a four-sport athlete at Yale (softball, volleyball, and track) and was an All-Ivy selection for four years in basketball. Being trained by O’Neal was a different level of training for her, he said.
“Louise was the best,” Brummel said. “She understood her craft better than anyone, certainly in line with a lot of Hall of Fame coaches I know today.”
Lori Riley can be reached at [email protected]