Gannon University has named Jim Brunelli as the next head women’s basketball coach. The announcement was made this morning during a press conference held in the Boardroom of Gannon’s Old Main.
Brunelli becomes the program’s ninth head coach as the Lady Knights embark on their 40th year. A 15-year coaching veteran at both the NCAA Division I and II levels, Brunelli most recently served as the head coach at Anderson (S.C.) University for the last five seasons. The Trojans have won three conference tournament titles (two in Conference Carolinas and one in the South Atlantic Conference) and advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament three times during his five seasons at the helm.
"Gannon University is established as a premier name in the PSAC and NCAA Division II women’s athletics," said Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D. "Our choice of Coach Brunelli reflects our commitment to excellence on the court, in the classroom and in the community. This is a great day to be a Knight and to be associated with an elite women’s basketball program.
"We’re very proud of our record of success in women’s athletics at Gannon University, and we are confident that Coach Brunelli will extend and contribute to that tradition. With an NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Elite Eight appearance behind us and the role of serving as the host university for the 2014 Elite Eight ahead, this is clearly a great day to be a Knight. We welcome Coach Brunelli to the Gannon family and look forward to what promises to be a historic season."
Brunelli was named SAC Coach of the Year this past season after guiding Anderson to the conference regular-season and tournament championships. The Trojans began the season with a 72-65 victory at NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member Clemson, before finishing 23-9 overall.
"Coach Brunelli brings great enthusiasm and energy to the game of basketball," said Gannon Director of Athletics Mark Richard. "A proven winner with three conference titles at Anderson, he is extremely excited to take on the challenge of coaching the student-athletes in our nationally-ranked program. In addition to a winning attitude, Coach Brunelli cares about the overall development of the student-athlete and excellence in the classroom. Those traits along with his complete approach to the position will enable him to recruit the type of student-athlete that excels at Gannon and in the community."
Brunelli hit the pavement running at Anderson, immediately leading the program to back-to-back NCAA Division II Tournament appearances during his first two seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10. His Anderson resume includes 82 victories, six all-conference selections, three conference tournament Most Valuable Players, six all-tournament team selections, three conference tournament titles, three NCAA Tournament appearances and one conference Player of the Year.
"I am very excited about the opportunity to be the next women’s basketball coach at Gannon University," said Brunelli. "It’s a wonderful opportunity for my family and me to be part of a great institution and athletics program in a great community. I want to thank Dr. Taylor, Mark Richard, the search committee and everyone here who has the faith in me to keep the balling rolling in the right direction."
"Gannon is a respected university in the classroom, in the community and on the court. I am thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to keep those traditions going, as well as be part of a program with such great fan support. I’m very excited about getting to know the student-athletes after talking with several of them during my visit and can’t wait to get to work."
Brunelli’s Anderson teams have shown a knack for peaking at the right time. The Trojans closed out his first campaign in 2008-09 by winning five of their last six regular-season games, before winning four straight to claim the conference tournament title by an average margin of 24.5 points. Three of those tournament victories came on the road. The 2009-10 season saw Anderson win seven of its final eight regular-season contests and claim hosting rights for the conference tournament where the program capture its second consecutive title and eighth straight trip to the NCAA Regional. The Trojans rattled off 13 victories in their final 16 regular-season contests last season.
Anderson ranked among the NCAA Division II top 50 last season in fewest turnovers per game (15.3), free throw percentage (74.0), scoring defense (57.8), won-loss percentage (71.9) and three-point field goals per game (6.6). Ironically, Gannon was also among the top 40 in the last three categories.
Prior to arriving at Anderson, Brunelli spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator under former Gannon head coach Jodi Kest at the University of Akron. Kest, who ranks second in overall victories (105) at Gannon, led Akron to a 23-10 record, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament championship game and a Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) bid last season.
The 40-year old Brunelli was an assistant coach for six seasons (2000-06) at the University at Albany, including the last two as the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. During his tenure with the NCAA Division I Great Danes, he was responsible for the signing of All-America East selection Danielle Hutcheson. He also served as interim head coach at Albany for five months at the completion of the 2001-02 season.
"I like to be up-tempo on the offensive end and aggressive on the defensive end," Brunelli notes of his style. "I’m not afraid to mix it up and play zone, but we’re not going to sit back in a zone with our hands up. We will do some trapping and some other concepts. I like to run and push the ball. I want a lot of players to shoot the three, but I also want to have inside presence."
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