Temple Names Cardoza New Women's Basketball Coach

July 1, 2008 1:55:36 PM PDT
Tonya Cardoza, introduced Tuesday as Temple's new women's basketball coach, says it is odd that the team she is inheriting from her friend and ex-teammate Dawn Staley was so good defensively. "Dawn was definitely a defensive coach," Cardoza said. "I don't really understand how, because in college she really couldn't play defense."

The jab at her former Virginia teammate was clearly playful, but Cardoza wasn't kidding when she said she wants to build on the program Staley turned into a perennial NCAA tournament team.

"Dawn, she set the bar," Cardoza said of Staley, who left Temple in May to take over the program at South Carolina. "And I'm ready to take the baton and run with it."

Cardoza certainly has the pedigree.

She played with Staley at Virginia under longtime coach Debbie Ryan and spent the last 14 seasons serving as an assistant at Connecticut under Geno Auriemma, a Basketball Hall of Famer.

While at UConn, Cardoza was part of a staff that won five NCAA titles and helped groom some of the Huskies star guards like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.

And she wants to get to work right away building a championship contender in Philadelphia.

"At Connecticut we strive to be the best and I'm trying to do it right away," Cardoza said. "The players are willing to work, I'm willing to work and we're going to try to do this as quickly as possible."

Cardoza has big shoes to fill. Staley recorded six 20-win seasons and six NCAA tournament appearances in eight years at Temple.

But Cardoza knows help from Staley is just a phone call away.

"She's going to be a source I can always tap into, because she's been through everything here," Cardoza said. "So, I definitely appreciate her support and we'll continue to have those sorts of conversations."

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said Staley's recommendation and Cardoza's impeccable resume were selling points, but it was her enthusiasm that got her the job.

"She had a way about her, and certainly having the courage to take over for Dawn was one thing," Bradshaw said. "And when she said she wanted to be the coach, her eyes and her smile said it much more than her words."

Auriemma, who attended the announcement, said he would be offering advice to Cardoza whenever she asked, but knew there would be a learning curve.

"I think she's got the qualities that she needs and she's going to put a good staff around here and she's going to make it work," he said.