Zags’ women’s basketball coach receives national recognition at NCAA Final Four in Tampa, Fla.
Gonzaga’s Lisa Fortier is the 2015 recipient of the Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year Award, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced Monday at the Fifth Annual WBCA Awards Show held in Tampa, Fla.
The award honors a WBCA Division I head coach who has led his or her team to a successful season during his or her first year at the helm.
“It is such an honor to receive this award,” Fortier said. “These types of awards are about universities, communities, coaching staffs and mostly about players. I get to work with wonderful people every day. The young women on our team have been such a pleasure to coach this year, and the way they compete and work to get better is inspiring. They make me proud to call them my team.”
Fortier was honored during the awards show, in the Grand Ballroom at the Tampa Marriott Waterside in Tampa. This event was part of the WBCA National Convention, which is held in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
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Defending champion UConn plays Notre Dame on Tuesday for the title. The game will air at 5:30pm on ESPN.
Fortier, who was promoted after a seven-year stint as an assistant on Gonzaga’s staff, led the program to a 26-8 finish and its seventh-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. GU made its fourth appearance in the Sweet 16, after a pair of upsets in the first and second rounds as an 11-seed.
“This award is a great acknowledgment of the tremendous success Lisa had this year,” Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth said. “It’s also an acknowledgement made by her peers on a national level. All of us here at GU are so proud of her, her staff and her team.”
Fortier had the best first-season any head coach in Gonzaga women’s basketball history has ever had. Her 26 wins and 76.5 winning percentage were both top of the list among first year finishes for any GU women’s basketball coach.
A native of Grass Valley, Calif., Fortier oversaw one of the nation’s more efficient offenses. The Bulldogs outscored opponents by 10.0 points per game.
Fortier was named the West Coast Conference co-Coach of the Year after guiding the Zags to their 11th straight conference regular season title. During the season, Gonzaga won 16 straight games, the fifth-longest win streak in program history. GU enjoyed its seventh-straight 25-win season.
“Lisa had a great first year as a head coach,” Zags’ senior forward Sunny Greinacher said. “She continued, and will continue, an amazing legacy at Gonzaga. She is very competitive, but also truly cares about her players and definitely deserves this award.”
As a team, the Bulldogs broke seven team records, including a program-best 77.4 percent from the free-throw line this season, which was also fourth-best in the country. GU made 534 free-throws and 211 three-pointers this season, both new program records.
Fortier first got into the coaching scene as a coordinator of basketball operations in 2004 for Gonzaga. After two years, Fortier coached for one year as an assistant coach at the University of Northern Colorado before returning to Gonzaga in 2007. Since Fortier rejoined the staff in 2007, Gonzaga has amassed a 232-51 record (.820), including a 114-10 mark in conference play (.919).
“Success in your first year as a head coach is incredibly challenging,” WBCA Executive Director Danielle Donehew said. “Lisa Fortier’s inaugural season as head coach at Gonzaga showcased what a talented coach and leader she is. We celebrate her efforts and effectiveness in quickly commanding all aspects of managing a program as well as positively mentoring her student-athletes. We look forward to following her teams for many years to come. The WBCA is also grateful to Lisa for her leadership and service off the basketball court as a member of the WBCA Board of Directors. Her efforts to enhance the coaching profession and grow the game of women’s basketball are remarkable. We are pleased to present Lisa Fortier with the Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year award.”
The Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year award is presented in honor of the late Maggie Dixon, former Army head coach, whose success during her inaugural year at the Army helm was remarkable. The Black Knights won the Patriot League title in 2006 and Dixon was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading Army to the NCAA Tournament for the first time at the NCAA Division I level. Coach Dixon passed away on April 6, 2006, just a few weeks following the Black Knights’ appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“Coach Fortier’s stellar inaugural season at Gonzaga and her smooth transition at the helm of a Division I program represent what the award and Coach Dixon embody,” said Paul Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Spalding, who sponsors the award. “Coach Fortier’s hard work, passion for the game and successful coaching have rightly earned her the 2015 Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year. Congratulations to Coach Fortier.”
Gonzaga sports information contributed to this report