Penn State women's basketball coach Coquese Washington is staying put.
Washington, who led the Lady Lions to their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 2004 last season, recently interviewed for the open position at Michigan. But in a joint press conference with PSU acting athletic director Dave Joyner at the Jordan Center Monday, Washington said she will remain in Happy Valley.
“Home is where your heart is and my heart is here at Penn State,” Washington said. Next season will be her sixth at the helm of the Lady Lions, who have seen steady improvement under the 2011-12 Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Michigan was kind of like home, too, at least with respect to its proximity to the city where Washington grew up. She was born and raised in Flint. But after checking out the Wolverine program, the 41-year-old realized PSU was where she wanted to be.
“This is no slight to Michigan or any other program,” Washington said. “But it reinforced for me that Penn State is the perfect place for me … because of the values and goals and leadership. … It's a wonderful marriage for me.”
Washington is under contract with Penn State until 2014. Neither she nor Joyner would reveal whether that contract had been extended prior to making her decision to stay.
Joyner did admit, “Penn State and Coquese will have a long history together.”
“It's not about the money,” Washington said. “It's about being at a place that you feel you can grow as a human being and become the best that you can be as a person. I feel strongly that Penn State is that place for me.”
Joyner laughed when talking about the idea of giving Washington “permission” to interview with Michigan, noting that she required no such clearance to talk to another program.
“She was respectful enough to ask me,” Joyner said. “But I had no way of tying her up here. I'd like to, maybe. We had a talk and I said, 'You can go to Michigan but you're not allowed to listen to them.'
In a more serious tone, Joyner added, “I said it's a great compliment to us that someone the caliber of Michigan wants you to come out and talk to them.”
Monday's hastily arranged press conference was an interesting affair. Fans sat in the second row of the press area, and one even asked Washington a question. Other program supporters and Penn State athletic department personnel packed the back of the room.
And the Lady Lions were on hand, too. They were outfitted in workout attire. They were all smiles when the announcement was made that Washington would be staying.
“It means a lot,” All-Big Ten guard Maggie Lucas said. “I want to play for Coach. She's who I committed to (as a recruit) and she's my coach. I'm glad I can play for her still.”