Coach Berenato becomes program's all-time wins leader; Photos by Harry Bloomberg
Career Record: 435-392 (.526), 29th season overall Pitt Record: 152-128 (.543), 10th season
Agnus Berenato has successfully transformed the University of Pittsburgh women's basketball program from the bottom of the Big East Conference to a nationally recognized name - in just a nine-year span.
The spirited head coach has led the Panthers to several firsts since she arrived at Pitt in 2003, among them the school's first NCAA Tournament bid (2007), back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances (2008, 2009), both the first and highest national ranking (2006, 2008) and the most wins in school history (25, 2008-09).
Berenato, who has compiled 435 victories in 28 seasons, earned her head coaching start at Rider University in 1981, before taking her game to the ACC and Georgia Tech from 1988-2003. At Georgia Tech, she directed the squad to the postseason in each of her final four seasons and guided the team to its first postseason title in school history - the 1992 National Women's Invitational Tournament crown.
Success Comes Quickly Berenato has consistently - year-in and year-out - produced talented young women. Twenty-one times players have earned all-league accolades under Berenato. The 2010-11 season marked the 10th year in a row that at least one Panthers player was tabbed to an All-Big East team. Last season, Brianna Kiesel became the fifth all-rookie team honoree under Berenato.
In December 2009, Berenato reached a milestone of her own - her 400th career victory. She achieved the feat with a win over state rival Saint Francis. That same season, Pitt climbed as high as No. 15 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll which tied the highest-ever ranking achieved.
The preceding 2008-09 season was one that went down in the record book for several reasons. Pitt set a school record for wins in a season (25), as well as winning percentage (.758). Among those 25 victories was a blasting of No. 8 Maryland by 29 points, marking the largest victory over a higher ranked team in school history.
The Panthers also tallied their best Big East finish at 12-4 and entered the Big East Championship as the No. 3 seed, the highest since the 1993-94 season. In postseason play, Pitt earned an NCAA Tournament bid - and its highest seed ever at No. 4 - in the Oklahoma City Regional. They advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second-straight season, falling to host Oklahoma.
Upon reaching the 20-win mark for the fourth consecutive season, the Panthers' success was rewarded with several national rankings. Pitt closed the season with a No. 15 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, matching the highest-ever ranking in the coaches poll. During the year, the Panthers also held the No. 14 spot, tying Pitt's best-ever position in the AP poll. >Shavonte Zellous was named Pitt's first All-Big East First Team three-time selection in 2009, while also earning Big East All-Tournament honors. Xenia Stewart was tabbed to the second team, her first league nod.
Another first for Pitt was a pair of individual honors for Zellous. The program's third all-time leading scorer was selected to the Associated Press All-America Third Team and also became the Panthers' first-ever WNBA draft pick when she was taken 11th overall in the first round by the defending league champion Detroit Shock. Zellous was also a Region I State Farm Coaches All-American, marking the second-straight year that a Pitt player received the honor.
In 2007-08, Pitt became just the 10th school in a 20-year span to advance to the Sweet 16 in just its second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers also became the first No. 6 seed since 2000 to upset a No. 3-seed, downing 12th-ranked Baylor in the second round.
The 2007-08 team also tied the previous school record for wins in a season (24) and reached the semifinals of the Big East Tournament by defeating No. 9 Notre Dame. The win over the Irish was the program's first victory against a top-10 ranked team and was one of four triumphs against top 15-ranked squads that season - yet, another school record.
Individually, Pitt had four players selected to All-Big East teams, including Shavonte Zellous (first team), Marcedes Walker (second team), Chelsea Cole (all-rookie) and Taneisha Harrison (all-rookie). Walker became Pitt's first-ever four-time All-Big East team honoree and also earned her second Region I State Farm Coaches All-America Team honor as a senior, which was also a first for a Panther player.
The Panthers claimed theirhighest-ever ranking in the top 25 polls with a No. 14 Associated Press mark and No. 15 spot in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Under Berenato's guidance, Pitt posted four consecutive 20-win seasons from 2005-09 and five consecutive postseason tournament appearances through 2010, both school- bests.
Hitting the Ground Running Prior to the 2006-07 season, Berenato made perfectly clear her intentions of dancing in the NCAA Tournament, a feat never before been accomplished at Pitt. The Panthers lost senior leader Mallorie Winn to injury, but the goal did not change. Instead it intensified. Pitt finished the season with a 24-9 record, including a 71-61 win over James Madison in the NCAA Tournament First Round. The tournament first and second rounds were fittingly hosted at the University of Pittsburgh.
The 2006-07 squad earned the program's first-ever ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and were the first Panthers team ranked in the AP Poll since 1979. Marcedes Walker was named a Kodak/WBCA District I All-American - the first Panther to grab the honor in 16 years - and Shavonte Zellous garnered the Big East's Most Improved Player award. Both were also named All-Big East First Team selections.
Pitt concluded the 2005-06 season with a 22-11 mark, which at the time, tied the school record for wins. In addition, the Panthers finished above .500 in the Big East with a 9-7 mark and secured a sixth-place finish -- the Panthers' highest since 1995. Walker and Winn both captured All-Big East accolades.
With that success, Pitt advanced to the Women's National Invitation Tournament for just the fourth time in school history, a feat many may not have predicted at the beginning of the season after the Panthers were picked to finish 13th in the 16-team Big East Conference. The Panthers - again, behind the leadership of Berenato - exceeded expectations by advancing to the semifinals of the WNIT Postseason Tournament.
The success, both on and off the court, is a credit to Berenato's character and the fact that she practices what she preaches to her team. Her enthusiasm and passion for women's basketball has helped make her players better students and people. She has things to do, goals to accomplish and plans to see them through - the faster, the better.
Berenato's impact on the program has reached far beyond the court and the win/loss column, however, as she has also helped put Pitt on the map. Over the past four seasons, Pitt has played on national, regional or local television 49 times and received unprecedented coverage on the national scene.
Since joining Pitt from Georgia Tech prior to the 2003-04 season, Berenato has worked with her staff to make the Panthers a perennial postseason team. The success has been apparent, jumping from six wins in her first year with the Panthers to 13 during her second season and 20 or more victories in four of the last six seasons.
The Road to Pitt Upon Berenato's hiring, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg stated, "We believe the University of Pittsburgh women' basketball program has unlimited potential, and in Agnus Berenato we have found the perfect individual to make that potential a reality. Anyone who meets Agnus for the first time cannot help but be impressed with both her knowledge and enthusiasm. Certainly with over 400 career victories, her ability as a coach is obvious. Just as exciting, Agnus has demonstrated a record of commitment to academics and the complete development of her student-athletes. It will be exciting to watch our program grow, on and off the court, under her leadership."
Guiding Georgia Tech to the postseason in each of her final four years, including the 2003 NCAA Tournament, Berenato owned a 223-209 (.516) record with the Yellow Jackets. She mentored the team to its first postseason championship by capturing the 1992 National Women's Invitational Tournament title, compiling a 20-13 overall record.
During her last season at Georgia Tech, the team finished 20-11 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Yellow Jackets upset No. 22 Georgia, 65-61, en route to starting the season with an 11-1 record. Berenato's squad made it to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament before falling to eventual champion and Final Four participant Duke. The Yellow Jackets also recorded a school-record 10-game winning streak. In five of her last seven seasons at Georgia Tech, Berenato led the Yellow Jackets to victories over top-15 opponents.
A two-time recipient of the Women' NCAA Division I Coach of the Year award in the state of Georgia by the Atlanta Tip-off Club, Her 2002 recruiting class was ranked among the top 15 in the nation by such publications as the All-Star Girls Report. Additionally, Athlon magazine ranked her 2001 class 13th nationally.
Berenato also served two years as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech (1986-87). She was responsible for recruiting and coaching Tech's frontcourt players. Before arriving at Georgia Tech, Berenato spent four years as the head women's basketball coach at Rider University, compiling a 60-55 record. In her first season at Rider, Berenato guided the Broncs to their best record in school history with a 26-7 mark. Following that year, she was named New Jersey Coaches Association (NJCA) Coach of the Year for her efforts while Rider was named its Team of the Year.
While at Rider, Berenato also served as the women' volleyball coach for four years, posting a 66-51 record which included a school-record 25-12 mark in 1983. She was inducted into the Rider Hall of Fame in February 2002.
Community Outreach Berenato is devoted to not only her players, but the community she fondly calls home. She has made a name for herself throughout the University of Pittsburgh and the city of Pittsburgh community for her dynamic public speaking ability, and has been invited to be the keynote speaker at a host of events throughout the area.
From attending and speaking at the WPIAL Sportsmanship Seminar and the Greensburg YWCA Sportswoman's Banquet, serving as an auctioneer for Research for Women's Health Issues to being a spokesperson in an art campaign for the Pittsburgh Opera, Berenato takes pride in representing residents of Western Pennsylvania.
A popular and dynamic speaker for Pitt alumni functions, Berenato has made public appearances at events across the country from Napa, Calif., to Baltimore, Md. to Chicago.
Locally, Berenato has served as the commencement speaker at Mt. Alvernia High School, keynote speaker for Family Enterprise Award Banquet and the Big Brothers, Big Sisters annual dinner. In early September 2012, Berenato was the keynote speaker at the Lunch Lecture Series for the Harvard Club of Western PA and the Allegheny HYP (Harvard, Yale and Princeton) Club.
Berenato participated in the Nike Championship Basketball Coaches Clinic following her lecture at the On Court Clinic, hosted by the WBCA at the 2010 Final Four in San Antonio. She also served as the finish line emcee at the Girls on the Run 5k and was the keynote speaker at the Strong Women, Strong Girls Jump into spring, the Bethlehem Haven Inaugural Leadership Speakers Series and the CPA Pittsburgh Chapter.
In 2009, she was named to the Pitt Magazine list of "12 Phenomenal Women," a list created to celebrate the remarkable occasion of 100 years of women at Pitt. That same year, Berenato spoke at the commencements of Oakland Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and Seton Hill University.
She was also the keynote speaker for ASPIRE (Area Students Participating in Rewarding Education) and has served as the honorary chair of the Girl Scouts of Distinction Awards Luncheon and the East End Cooperative Ministry Gala.
Berenato was recognized in 2008 by her alma mater, Mount St. Mary's University, when she received the Bicentennial Medal of Honor. She has been honored by the Girl Scouts Trillium Council as the Sports and Fitness honoree at their Women and Girls of Distinction ceremony and was named a finalist for the prestigious ATHENA Award.
She was also the keynote speaker for the 2007 Non-Profit Leadership Conference and the 2006 YMCA State Conference, and is an annual speaker at the YMCA Scholar-Athlete Banquet. In 2007 and 2008, Berenato served as a panelist on "Balancing Family and Coaching" at the annual WBCA Convention at the Final Four. Her community projects include: Juvenile Diabetes, Read 365, Healthy for Life Conference and she co-hosted a basketball clinic with former Steelers Coach Bill Cohwer for Family Resources, among her other activities.
She is on several committees in the Pittsburgh community, most recently named a member of the Honorary Host Committee for the 2012 SilverSport WFA National Championship at Heinz Field. Berenato participated on several panels this past summer on the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
One of the most enlightening events Berenato has participated in was the 2009 College Basketball Tour, the only women's coach on this phenomenal trip. Berenato and four college basketball coaches toured American military personnel throughout Afghanistan and Qatar, rallying the morale of troops during the U.S. Army sponsored event.
Berenato is a huge advocate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and itsRace for the Cure - a charity organization for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
In addition to her local involvement, Berenato initiated Pitt's annual Pink the Petersen event, which takes place during one game each season, and works to promote awareness and raise funds for breast cancer. The Panthers and the Susan G. Komen Foundation join forces for the annual event, which has become extremely successful in the Pittsburgh area. Berenato was the honorary chair for the Pittsburgh area race which took place on Mother's Day weekend 2011 in Schenley Park.
Berenato has been personally touched by the disease as her mother, Theresa McGlade, who passed away from breast cancer in 1985. At the time, Berenato was in her fourth year as the head coach at Rider (NJ) University. She resigned from her position to care for her mother while she fought the disease.
In June 2012, Berenato wasrecognized by the Pittsburgh affiliate of Susan G. Komen at its Celebration of Promise dinner when she recieved the Terri L. Chapman Award. The honor is bestowed on individuals who have gone above and beyond in their committment to fight against breast cancer.
Achievements & Family Berenato received her second Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year award over a three-year period in 2007, a prestigious local award given to a Pittsburgh individual who succeeds athletically, as well as makes a difference in the community. She accepted the Native Son Award in 2004, an annual award presented by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association to a native of the Philadelphia area who has achieved success in athletics.
A 1980 graduate of Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., Berenato earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and was a three-year starter on the basketball team. Playing for former NBA star and current ESPN analyst Fred Carter, she was a two-time captain for the Mountaineers. Following eight years of service on the college's Board of Trustees, she is now a Trustee Emeritus.
Berenato has previously served as a weekly voter in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, is a member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame committee and the Girl Scouts Alumnae Association. In the past, she has been a member of the Kodak All-America Selection Committee, East Regional Championship Committee, the Atlanta Women's Network, Inc., The Georgia Women's Intersport Network, and Atlanta Women in Sports.
She received the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Volunteer Award for exemplary volunteerism from the Jesse Draper Boys' and Girls' Club of Atlanta while at Georgia Tech. Additionally, she was selected by the Institute of International Sports as one of its Sports Ethics Fellows in 1996.
In May of 2009, Berenato was awarded with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Seton Hill University and delivered the commencement speech to their spring graduates.
Berenato has reached several personal milestones while at Pitt, the first coming in 2005 when she recorded her 300th career victory with an 85-81 win over Big East foe Georgetown. During the 2008-09 campaign, she recorded her 100th win at Pitt over archrival West Virginia and then picked up her 400th career win in 2009 against Saint Francis (Pa).
A native of Gloucester City, N.J., Berenato and her husband Jack have five children: Theresa Marie, Andrew, Joey, Clare and Christina.