Boston College head women’s basketball coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee has been under contract for all of nine days, and she’s already making herself feel right at home. On Thursday, she announced the hiring of assistant coaches Yolanda Griffith and A.J. Cohen—both of whom worked for Bernabei-McNamee during her two-year tenure at Albany.
“I am extremely excited that Yolanda and A.J. will be joining me on the Heights,” Bernabei-McNamee told BCEagles.com. “They are both passionate coaches who understand the winning culture that we want to instill in our current and incoming players.”
Before serving as an assistant in upstate New York, Griffith climbed her way up the coaching ranks following an 11-year WNBA career. After wrapping up her time in the pros with 4,238 points, 2,444 rebounds, 529 steals, 453 assists, and 323 blocks, Griffith was hired as an assistant at Dartmouth in 2011. She spent two years in Hanover, N.H., but ultimately left the Ivy League for Lafayette in 2013. Her days with the Leopards were severely limited, though. Perhaps using the Patriot League school as a pit stop, Griffith then moved to Massachusetts for another two years, prior to catching Bernabei-McNamee’s attention.
The seven-time All-Star and 1999 WNBA MVP was voted as one of the top-15 best players in league history back in 2011, and for good reason. Not only did she shoot 50.6 percent from the floor for her career, but she also has a championship pedigree: Griffith led the Sacramento Monarchs to the 2005 WNBA title and is a two-time (2000, 2004) Olympic gold medalist. To top it all off, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014 in her first year of eligibility.
Cohen didn’t have nearly the same success on the hardwood, but his ties with Bernabei-McNamee stretch further than his counterpart’s. The 26-year-old coach served as a graduate assistant under Bernabei-McNamee at Pikeville for two years. While in the NAIA, the two teamed up to record 63 wins, en route to back-to-back National Tournament berths and a Final Four appearance in 2016.
The assistant gig at Pikeville was one of Cohen’s first jobs coming out of college. A 2013 Louisville graduate, the Pittsburgh, Pa. native worked for the Cardinals’ women’s basketball team as an undergraduate, assisting with video coordination, opponent scoring breakdowns, and even practice itself.
“Coach A.J. has a tireless work ethic and an amazing amount of energy,” McNamee said. “He has an infectious personality that makes it easy for him to connect with recruits and develop players.”
At Albany, Griffith and Cohen helped Bernabei-McNamee lead a Great Danes team to a combined 45-20 record and back-to-back postseason appearances, including a spot in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. But before they can even think about reaching similar heights in Chestnut Hill, they’ll have to figure out how to rebuild BC—a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2010-11.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor