Arizona Western WBB Coach Cunningham announces retirement

Patrick Cunningham, the only coach in Lady Matadors’ basketball program history, announced his retirement as head women’s basketball coach at Arizona Western College on Monday afternoon.

Cunningham led the Lady Matadors for all 23 years of the program’s existence, winning 483 games and guiding the Lady Matadors to two NJCAA DI Women’s Basketball Championship appearances, most recently this past season, leading Arizona Western to the quarterfinals for the second time in program history.

“I’ve been really fortunate to be at a place where I can ride across the street every day and do two of the things that I really enjoy teaching and coaching, and when you get to do things you enjoy it makes it really easy,” said Cunningham. “I’ve been blessed to be here, blessed for the support we have gotten over the years from the administration and the community. We’ll follow the Matadors going forward and I wish the best to the program and the players because that is what it’s all about, the players and the program.”

Coach Cunningham came to Yuma in 1999 when Arizona Western College added women’s basketball and helped turn the Lady Matadors into a perennial contender in the ACCAC. Prior to arriving in Yuma, Cunningham served as an assistant coach on both the women’s and men’s coaching staffs at Yavapai College.

“Coach Cunningham built the Lady Matadors’ basketball program from the ground up and maintained a level of success that put Arizona Western on the map of NJCAA women’s basketball,” said Arizona Western College Athletic Director Jerry Smith. “We are grateful for the 23 years Patrick put into the program as well as the institution, representing both with class and unwavering commitment. Patrick is a leader that impacted the lives of student-athletes and those in the Arizona Western community. We are thankful for the memories and wish him the best in retirement.”

In just his second year at AWC, Cunningham led the Lady Matadors to their first 20-win season in 2000-2001, something the Lady Matadors would accomplish 14 times in Cunningham’s 23 seasons in charge. In his third season, the Lady Matadors would bring home their first Region I title, going 32-3 and qualifying for the NJCAA DI Women’s Basketball Championship for the first time in program history, earning a ninth-place finish. The 32 wins were a program record and one of three 30-win seasons in program history.

“As the years start to pile on you start the see the value you have brought to the players and it’s fun to see how they progress through their lives, the children they have, the relationships they build, and the things they do,” said Cunningham. “That has been really rewarding, being able to follow them and they get back to you”.

In his time at Arizona Western, Cunningham has coached 13 NJCAA All-Americans including current assistant coach Jolie Yabuka-Olingende. Over the last 23 seasons, 83 players have moved on to play at the four-year level under the guidance of Cunningham.

Cunningham will be staying in the Yuma area and will be spending time traveling to visit family.

Below is a list of the major accomplishments Patrick Cunningham and his staff helped Lady Matadors’ Basketball achieve over the last 23 seasons:

  • 483 wins and 217 losses
  • Averaged 21 wins per season
  • Two NJCAA National Tournament appearances (9th place finish in 2002)
  • Five consecutive 20-win seasons from 2000-01 to 2004-05
  • 11 seasons of less than 10 losses
  • 322-130 ACCAC record

Photo Courtesy AWC Athletics

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