Gonzaga’s Lisa Fortier is one of 15 finalists for the top coaching award in the nation because her players have put the team first this season, she says.
“Every year is different, but this one has been extra fulfilling because of how the players have accepted their roles,” Fortier said Wednesday, shortly after being named to the Naismith College Coach of the Year list by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
Now in her fifth year as head coach, Fortier is in elite company.
Other finalists include eight-time winner Geno Auriemma of Connecticut; Muffet McGraw of defending NCAA champion Notre Dame; Kim Mulkey of Baylor and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford.
All have exceeded expectations, few more dramatically than Gonzaga. The Zags are 25-3 overall, ranked 16th in the Associated Press poll and 14th in RPI with two games left in the regular season.
The Zags were preseason West Coast Conference favorites, though narrowly over BYU, as Fortier and her staff had to replace leading scorer and rebounder Jill Barta and versatile guard Emma Stach.
Since taking over, Fortier has led the Zags to three regular-season WCC titles and can win a fourth this week with a win over Pepperdine or Loyola Marymount.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.