5th season at NU
June Olkowski enters her fifth season as the Wildcats? head coach after achieving Northwestern?s most successful campaign in three seasons.
The 2003-04 season marks Olkowski?s 15th as a Division I head coach. She was named the head coach at Northwestern on March 31, 1999, the fourth head coach in the sport?s 28-year history.
Olkowski and her staff took a mostly freshman team in 2001-02, and they continue to mold a now-seasoned group of veterans into this season. The core of then-sophomores and juniors along with a lone rookie made some strides in 2002-03. Conference wins versus Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State matched the most conference wins in any Olkowski season to date, as NU won three games in 1999, her inaugural season. The eight total wins matched the previous two-year totals combined, showing progress heading into this season. All five starters are returning for the second-straight year.
Olkowski knows what it takes to win. As both a player and a coach, Olkowski has achieved a great deal of success.
As a student-athlete, the Philadelphia native excelled. She starred for Theresa Grentz?s Rutgers team from 1978 to 1982, and led the Scarlet Knights to the AIAW National Championship in her senior season. The former All-American and Wade Trophy finalist became the first woman in Rutgers University history to have her jersey retired.
Olkowski?s venue may have changed since her playing days but her philosophy remains the same. Her ambition to bring NU?s program into an upper echelon program has never waivered.
?The goal for our program is to instill a belief in the players that they can win any game.? she said. ?We will concentrate on making sure the team is well-conditioned and prepared for any situation on the court. Our players must believe they can win every time they take the floor.?
Olkowski?s coaching philosophy proved successful at Butler University, where she spent six impressive seasons as head coach, prior to her hiring at NU. At Butler, Olkowski compiled a 114-56 (.671) record, as her teams averaged 19 wins a year. In 1996, her team won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) tournament title and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament. Her 1998 squad won the MCC regular season crown and advanced to the second round of the WNIT.
Olkowski?s 1998-99 Butler team lost its best player to injury, but still posted a 17-11 record with notable wins over NCAA Tournament participants Illinois and Oregon. She is the winningest coach in Butler history and was named MCC Coach of the Year on three separate occasions.
Following her Butler stint, Olkowski set her sights on NU. In her first season at Northwestern, Olkowski guided the 1999-2000 women?s basketball team to a 7-21 mark. The team was 3-7 in nonconference action and 3-13 against Big Ten foes. In the Big Ten Tournament, the Wildcats upset Iowa (68-59) to reach the quarterfinal round for the fifth time in six years. They also became just the second No. 10 seed to win a first-round game in the history of the Big Ten Tournament.
Olkowski notched her first Big Ten win when the team knocked off Michigan State (58-55) on Jan. 6, 2000.
In Olkowski?s second season, the team experienced some growing pains as they went winless in the Big Ten (0-16) and ended the year at 4-23.
2001-02 was another tough road with Emily Butler, the ?Cats? leading scorer from 2000-01, going down in the fourth game with a season-ending knee injury. That forced Olkowski to start three, sometimes four, freshmen per game. The inexperience showed as NU stumbled to a 4-24 overall record and 0-16 in the Big Ten.
Things slowly continue to improve for the Wildcats, as was evident in 2002-03. Olkowski?s sophomore class?Sarah Kwasinski, Samantha McComb, Melissa Culver, and Suzanne Morrison?has stepped up and made NU a multi-dimentional offensive threat.
Olkowski began her coaching career as an assistant at the University of Maryland for three seasons (1982-85). During that span, the Terrapins twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament. From College Park, Olkowski traveled cross-country to become the top assistant at the University of Arizona (1985-87). Two years later, at the age of 27, she became the youngest head coach in NCAA history when she was elevated to the top spot of the Wildcat program.
Following her four-year stint at Arizona (1987-1991), Olkowski served as an assistant coach at Auburn University for two seasons (1991-93). While she was with the Tigers, Auburn advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament and was ranked No. 10 in the nation during the 1992-93 campaign.
Olkowski garnered six years of international playing experience from high school to college, including a place on the gold medal-winning teams at the 1978 National Olympic Sports Festival and the 1979 World University Games. In addition to being a member of the Women?s Basketball Coaches Association, Olkowski has been a regular participant in the NCAA?s YES Clinic since 1994.
Olkowski graduated from Rutgers in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in physical education and sports administration. In April 1999, she was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.