From the programs beginning in 1973 to 2013 the Seton Hall Women’s basketball team had only seen three head coaches over a 40-year span. Sue Dilley the programs first coach headed the team for the first 12 seasons including the team’s first three years in a Big East Conference (1982). Dilley was replaced by the longest tenured head coach in team history, Phyllis Mangina who in her 25 years as head coach was able to lead the program to two straight NCAA Tournament bids, advancing to the Sweet-Sixteen in 1993 and the Round-of-32 in 1994. Mangina would remain coach until 2010 when Anne Donovan took over. Donovan’s stay however didn’t last long as she found herself out of a job after an unsuccessful four years.
The previous head coach hiring hadn’t gone as planned and the program found they would have to restart a process they had gone through just four years prior. In 2013 the program found themselves looking for their fourth head coach. But without being able to see the future how would the program know they were making the correct decision?
Entered Anthony Bozzella. Prior to accepting the Seton Hall gig Bozzella coached Southampton/LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team for ten years from 1992-2002 taking the team to one NCAA Tournament. After his stint at LIU Brooklyn Bozzella transitioned to Iona College’s women’s basketball program where he would stay for another 10 years. He was unable to get Iona to the big dance but did secure invitations to the NIT in four of the 10 years.
Fast forward to 2016; Bozzella is looking to root himself deep into the Seton Hall program. The previous three seasons saw Bozzella lead the team to three straight post season appearances, something the program had never done before, only getting to the postseason five times total in the previous 40 years; all under Mangina. In 2015 the program won its first regular season Big East championship in team history. They parlayed that success into an NCAA birth, which marked the second big dance appearance in Bozzella’s tenure and fourth in program’s history.
In what has been a more than successful start to Bozzella’s tenure at Seton Hall, how did the program know he was the guy for the job?
“Tony has been great for this program, we couldn’t have imagined the immediate success and culture change he’s brought here but I knew he’s they guy I wanted for the job,” said Patrick Lyons Seton Hall Athletic Director and the man who hired Bozzella.
Athletic directors are tasked with making sure all sports teams at their College/University are on the right track. Their job security is predicated on the success of the teams. Besides hiring and firing the AD has no control over the team’s play. With that being said an AD must put faith into the people he’s decided to give these opportunities and that is always easier to do when you’ve had history with someone.
Bozzella attended Seton Hall University as a student so that was already in his favor. Bozzella was looked at as a serious candidate because of the Iona ties within Seton Hall’s athletic program. Lyons attended Iona college as a student and right there you had your first connection. Lyons hired Kevin Willard the men’s head basketball coach two years prior to hiring Bozzella. His previous and only head-coaching stop was also at Iona marking a second connection.
Lyons said “when I was looking at coaching candidates, I felt comfortable with Tony because there was history there, but more importantly he held his previous jobs for a while which is always a good sign.”
“This was my dream job ever since I was here at Seton Hall as a student so when I got that call my interest was undeniable,” said Bozzella.
Aside from basketball success Bozzella has left an impression among the student athletes he’s coached over the last four years. The culture of the program has changed tremendously over the years.
“I love playing for coach, he wants us to do well on and off the court; to him it isn’t just about wins and losses on the court but making sure by the time you leave here you’ve left with more knowledge than when you started,” said senior guard Tara Inman.
“You want to play hard for him because you know he cares about you as person, which is why I decided to come to Seton Hall,” said guard JaQuan Jackson.
So far it seems like the program has found their guy in Bozzella. 2016 marks the beginning of Bozzella’s fourth year with the program. It seems as though Bozzella will be here longer than the last head coach. But let the basketball do the talking as Bozzella and his girls look to add to their success by following up last season’s NCAA appearance with another one in the 2016-17 season. “The biggest thing for me is building on the season before and to become a better overall leader as a coach and a mentor to these girls,” said Bozzella.