University of Hartford’s Jennifer Rizzotti will tackle her third USA Basketball coaching assignment, and her second as a head coach, with the 2011 USA Women’s U19 World Championship Team. Previously, Rizzotti was head coach of the 2010 USA U18 National Team that finished with a perfect 5-0 record, captured the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA Americas Championship and earned the U.S. a berth in the 2011 FIBA U19 Worlds. In her first USA Basketball coaching stint, Rizzotti was an assistant coach for the 2006 USA U18 National Team that collected gold with a 4-0 slate and earned a qualifying spot in the 2007 U19 World Championship.
Announced as head coach for the USA U19 squad on March 17, 2011, Rizzotti’s USA Basketball resume extends to her playing days. She was a gold medalist on the 1996 USA R. William Jones Cup Team and a 1995 USA Women’s National Team Trials participant.
Rizzotti, in her 12th season (1999-00 to present) as Hartford’s head coach, capped the 2010-11 regular season with a 14-15 record, including an 8-1 mark over the final nine games. The Hawks finished America East Conference play tied for third in the league with an 11-5 slate and advanced to the NCAA Tournament after capturing the America East Tournament crown. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Hawks are 17-15, are on a five-game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 12 games.
Owning an overall record of 236-136 (.634 winning percentage) at Hartford, where she began her coaching career, Rizzotti has led the Hawks to four America East regular season titles (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), five America East Tournament crowns (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011), five trips to the NCAA Tournament (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010), two WNIT appearances (2007, 2009) and strung together six consecutive 20-win seasons (2004-05 through 2009-10).
Under Rizzotti, the Hawks appeared in the national rankings for the first time in program history, rising as high as No. 19 in the 2009-10 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. She has been named America East Coach of the Year three times (2006, 2007, 2010) and was one of 10 finalists for the 2010 Kay Yow National Coach of the Year award.
Prior to Rizzotti’s arrival, the program posted just two winning seasons in its 15-year NCAA Division I history, dating to the 1984-85 season. In her first 11 years, the Hawks have more than quadrupled that with nine winning seasons.
Additionally, Rizzotti piloted Hartford to the first NCAA and WNIT appearances, and first postseason wins, in program history and has upped the record for season victories five times. Before Rizzotti arrived on campus, the program’s record for wins in a single season was 15. She increased that to 16 in just her third year, followed by 18 wins in 2003-04, 22 in 2004-05 and 27 in 2005-06. The Hawks set the latest high-water mark with 28 victories in 2007-08.
In one of her most successful seasons to date, the 2009-10 Hawks captured a perfect 16-0 conference record for the regular season title, won a program-best 20 straight games, finished the year with a 27-4 record, earned the school’s first ever at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, and appeared in national polls for the first time in history. The Hawks ranked as high as No. 19 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll and No. 21 in the Associated Press Poll. For her efforts, Rizzotti was named a finalist for the inaugural Kay Yow award and earned her third America East Coach of the Year honor.
Additional highlights in her 12-year coaching career include the 2005-06 season in which the Hawks recorded the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory and finished the year with a 27-4 record. Not only did the team tally a then-record 27 wins, it posted a then-Hartford record for most conference wins (15) and reeled off 15 consecutive victories during the regular season as Rizzotti earned her first America East Coach of the Year honor.
Rizzotti’s Hawks bettered the record in the 2007-08 season when they finished with a 28-6 slate, captured both the America East Tournament and regular season crowns, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The program’s first America East Tournament title and NCAA appearance came in Rizzotti’s third year in Hartford. Following a 14-14 record in her first season and a 15-14 tally in 2000-01, Rizzotti led her 2001-02 squad to a 16-15 record. Finishing 9-7 in league play, Hartford entered the America East Tournament as the No. 5 seed and knocked off No. 4 Maine in the quarterfinals, upset No. 1 Vermont in the semifinals and then defeated No. 7 Stony Brook in the finals for the NCAA Tournament berth.
Appointed Hartford’s head coach just 12 days after defeating the New York Liberty for the 1999 WNBA championship as a member of the Houston Comets, Rizzotti at that time was the youngest Division I women’s basketball coach in the country.
Rizzotti played eight seasons of professional basketball after graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1996. In addition to five seasons in the WNBA, two with the Houston Comets and three with the Cleveland Rockers, she spent three seasons with the New England Blizzard in the American Basketball League (ABL). She was a two-time ABL All-Star.
As a point guard at the University of Connecticut, Rizzotti was the 1996 Associated Press National Player of the Year and the ‘96 Wade Trophy winner as college basketball’s most outstanding player. She was also a two-time Kodak All-American first team selection (1995 and 1996), a 1996 GTE/CoSIDA Women’s Basketball Academic All-American, the 1996 Big East Player of the Year and the 1996 Big East Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. During the Huskies’ run to the national championship in 1995, Rizzotti was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The 1993 Big East Rookie of the Year, Rizzotti started in every game UConn played while she was a Husky, 135 total and graduated with a record of 117-18 (.867 winning percentage). Rizzotti helped UConn win three Big East Tournaments (1994, 1995, 1996) and in addition to the program’s first NCAA crown in ’95, Rizzotti helped UConn reach the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 1993, the Elite Eight in 1994 and the Final Four in 1996.
In September 2003, Rizzotti was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
A native of New Fairfield, Conn., Rizzotti is a 1992 graduate of New Fairfield High School, where she was part of two state championship teams. She was also selected as the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Connecticut as a senior.
Rizzotti and her husband, Bill Sullivan, have two sons, Holden (April 2005) and Conor (July 2008).
Jennifer Rizzotti’s Coaching Synopsis
|Collegiate Coaching Record:|
|.483||America East Tournament title|
|.843||NCAA first round, America East regular season title|
|.625||WNIT second round|
|.824||NCAA second round, America East Tournament & regular season titles|
|.735||WNIT second round, America East regular season title|
|.871||NCAA second round, America East Tournament & regular season titles|
|.710||NCAA first round, America East Tournament title|
|.516||NCAA first round, America East Tournament title|
|Totals: 12 Seasons||
|.634||5 NCAAs, 2 WNITs, 5 America East Tournament titles, 4 America East regular season titles|
|USA Basketball Coaching Record:|
|2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship||Head Coach||5-0||1.000||Gold Medal|
|2006 FIBA Americas U18 Championship||Asst.Coach||4-0||1.000||Gold Medal|
|Totals||9-0||1.000||2 Gold Medals|
|USA Basketball Athlete History:|
|1996 Women’s R. William Jones Cup Team||9-0||1.000||Gold Medal|