Rene Portland's long career as women's basketball coach at Penn State is over. FightOnState.com has learned that Portland resigned under pressure Wednesday, roughly two weeks after the Lady Lions completed their second-straight losing season.
Neither PSU athletic director Tim Curley nor Portland returned calls for this story. School president Dr. Graham Spanier did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview on the subject.
But a source close to the situation said Portland was given an ultimatum by the university last Friday -- step down or be dismissed.
Her career record at Penn State was 606-236.
Portland took over the Lady Lion program in 1980-81 after successful stops at St. Joe's and Colorado. In more than a quarter of a century at the helm, she took the program from an afterthought that played its games in the tiny White Building to an Atlantic 10 power playing in Rec Hall to a Big Ten contender that routinely played before large crowds at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Portland was named Big Ten Coach of the Year four times, Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year once and National Coach of the Year by various organizations on five different occasions. Her teams won six Atlantic 10 Tournament championships and five Big Ten regular-season titles.
Before the recent two-year dry spell, Portland had taken Penn State to NCAAs in 21 of 24 seasons, including a streak of seven straight appearances between 1999 and 2005. The Lady Lions reached the Final Four in 2000. She coached four first-team All-Americans: Suzie McConnell, Susan Robinson, Helen Darling and Kelly Mazzante.
But Portland became the target of intense criticism the past two years after former player Jennifer Harris alleged the coach discriminated against her on the basis of sexual orientation and race. The university held an internal investigation into Harris' charges and in April of 2006 fined Portland for breaking its non-discrimination policy with respect to sexual orientation but not race.
A civil suit filed by Harris against Portland and Penn State was settled out of court late last year. Terms were not disclosed.
An obvious candidate to replace Portland is McConnell, arguably the top player in Penn State history. Now known by her married name of McConnell-Serio, she was an All-American at Penn State in 1988 and a two-time Olympian (1988, 1992). A long-time high school coach in the Pittsburgh area, she also played for the Cleveland Rockers of the WNBA from 1998-2000. In 2000, she was named coach of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx.
McConnell-Serio resigned as coach of the Lynx last July. She spent most of the 2006-07 season doing color commentary for Lady Lion basketball telecasts.