Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman has made a Hall-of-Fame hire as his next women's basketball coach.
Whitman went back to his Wahshington University connection and tabbed Nancy Fahey, a five five-time Division III national champion and is a two-time Division III coach of the year recipient. The News-Gazette first reported the news and the hire was confirmed by Whitman on Wednesday.
In 31 years in St. Louis, Fahey (pronounced FAY) has led the Bears to a 737-133 overall record, 29 Division III NCAA Tournaments and 23 conference championships. Fahey was the fastest NCAA women's basketball coach to 600 wins (accomplishing it in 706 games) and currently ranks 22nd all-time in career wins and is 13th in wins among active coaches.
"It gives me great pride to welcome my friend and former colleague Nancy Fahey to the Fighting Illini family as the new head coach of our women's basketball program," Whitman said in a statement. "With a record highlighted by five national championships, 10 Final Fours, nearly 740 wins, and a winning percentage of almost 85%, Nancy's Hall of Fame coaching career stands among the most accomplished in the history of women's basketball. What is more compelling to me, however, is her ability to connect with the women on her team, to push them to be better than they ever thought possible, and to help them develop as players, students, and people. Nancy Fahey is a born leader, and she is the among the best basketball coaches I have ever seen. I could not be more excited for her to lead our Fighting Illini program to championship heights."
Fahey, a McHenry, Ill., native who graduated from Johnsburg High School, led the Bears to four straight NCAA titles from 1998-2001 -- including back-to-back undefeated national championship seasons in 1999 and 2000 -- won 10 straight conference titles from 1998 to 2007. Fahey, who has advanced to 10 Final Fours, has never lost more than eight games in a season and averages just 4.3 losses per season.
"It is such an exciting time in Illinois athletics since Josh has taken the helm," Fahey said in a statement. "Having worked with Josh, I know he believes in doing things with integrity and the right way; I believe in the same things. I want to be a part of helping his vision become a reality. The cornerstone for the success I have experienced in the past has always revolved around the players. Knowing them as people and understanding their dreams and goals both on and off the court are important to me. I truly believe the players who are here and those who have committed to Illinois for next year have the ability to propel us to great heights. They want to be that team that we talk about five years from now. I want to help make that happen for them and for Illinois. Ultimately, we want every little girl, when she is growing up, to dream about Illinois as a place they want to play their college basketball."
The Bears have won at least one NCAA Tournament game in every season since 1997. They have made the quarterfinals each of the last two seasons, were the national runner-up in 2011 and last won the national title in 2010.
Fahey returns to the Big Ten, where she played for four seasons at Wisconsin. She started two years for the Badgers and was a senior captain before graduating in 1981.
Whitman elevated Fahey to assistant athletic director at Wash U during his two-year stint there before he joined Illinois, his alma mater, in March 2016.