He will tell you it isn’t about himself so much as it is about the fact that he’s had some wonderful players, but Penn women’s basketball coach Mike McLaughlin has an impressive resume.
When Penn hired him in 2009, McLaughlin had the highest winning percentage of any college basketball coach nationwide. He currently sports a 433-121 (.782) record and has already guided the Quakers to their largest single-season turnaround in program history.
“I’m not one that sets goals about winning 15 games or 25 games,” McLaughlin said. “We just try to put ourselves in the best position to win games.”
McLaughlin came to Penn three years ago from his alma mater, Holy Family, where he was the women’s head coach for 14 seasons after two years as an assistant. Holy Family won at least 29 games in nine of those seasons.
Perhaps the most incredible mark set by McLaughlin is that he is the fastest women’s basketball coach to record 400 career wins in any division of college basketball. In the 2008-09 season, McLaughlin won his 400th game in just his 459th contest. Leon Barmore previously held the record, 463 games, at Louisiana Tech.
In McLaughlin’s final four seasons at Holy Family, the Tigers were 72-0 in conference play. There certainly have been a lot of wins from which to choose, but some of McLaughlin’s fondest memories as a coach have one thing in common.
“The wins I remember most were the times we won the championship because it was the peak of what we were trying to accomplish,” he said.
It may seem as though his degree in criminology taught him the skills he uses to be a defense-minded coach. Yet, McLaughlin highlights a different reason for this approach.
“I think it started with my college coach. If we didn’t defend, you weren’t going to play,” he said.
In his first season with the Quakers, McLaughlin won just two games. While many would be discouraged after so much success, McLaughlin felt differently.
“I look back on my coaching and I remember that year probably as well as any of the championships I have won,” he said. “I take each season as a different challenge and I think we won that challenge. Lesser people would have quit.”
Last season, the Quakers got off to their best 10-game start in school history and finished with the most wins in seven years. This year, their goals are to finish above .500 for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign and to compete for an Ivy League title.
“What has been exceptional is the atmosphere that we’ve created here and that was helped by the administration, the facilities and the people here,” McLaughlin said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I love it here.”
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