Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics mourns the passing of former women’s basketball head coach Rene Portland, who died on Sunday in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. She was 65.
A native of Broomall, Pennsylvania, Portland was named the fourth head coach in Penn State women’s basketball history on May 20, 1980. She compiled a 606-236 overall record during her 27-year tenure as head coach of the Lady Lions, with a career mark of 693-265 over 31 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Portland was just the ninth coach in NCAA Division I history to record 600 wins at one institution, during the 2006-07 campaign, and is No. 20 on the all-time Division I coaching victories list.
“The Penn State Athletics family extends our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Coach Portland,” said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “She made a significant impact on women’s basketball, Penn State Athletics and the State College and Lady Lion Basketball communities.”
“Rene Portland was one of the most successful coaches in the history of our game and elevated Penn State Lady Lion Basketball to one of the nation’s elite programs,” said Coquese Washington, Penn State women’s basketball head coach. “It was an honor to take over the program that she gave so much of her life to. No question, our game would not be where it is today without the contributions of Rene Portland.”
The Lady Lions made 21 NCAA Tournament appearances under Portland, advancing to the 2000 Final Four in Philadelphia and winning the 1998 WNIT. The Lady Lions advanced to the Sweet 16 on 11 occasions and reached the Elite Eight four times under Portland’s direction. Portland was a two-time WBCA National Coach of the Year and a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year selection.
Penn State claimed five-regular season Big Ten titles — beginning conference play during the 1992-93 campaign — and claimed a pair of Big Ten Tournament titles during Portland’s tenure. She also guided the Lady Lions to a pair of regular-season Atlantic 10 Conference crowns and five A-10 Tournament titles. During the 1990-91 season, the Lady Lions earned the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking, becoming the first women’s basketball program from the Northeast to stake claim to the No. 1 spot in the national polls.
She served as the president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) during the 1989-90 season and made three tours with USA Basketball. Portland earned the USA Basketball Developmental Coach of the Year award after leading the Junior National Team to its first gold medal at the 1997 World Championships. She helped the 1996 Junior National Team to a silver medal at the World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Chetumal, Mexico and aided the 1999 World University Games squad to a silver medal showing in Spain.
Portland coached four first-team WBCA All-Americans, five conference player of the years, four conference freshmen of the years, three conference defensive players of the year, one Olympian and one Wade Trophy winner. Twenty of her pupils earned All-Big Ten accolades on 44 occasions, while 10 more players totaled 19 All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors.
Portland helped Immaculata College to its first of three consecutive national championships as a freshman in 1972. As a senior, the team finished as the national runner-up, as she helped the Mighty Macs to an 85-5 overall record as a student-athlete. She gained three Outstanding College Athlete of America awards and one New York Press All-America citation as a forward/center. The Mighty Macs were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014 and were the subject of a 2009 movie, “The Mighty Macs.”
She was inducted in to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Philadelphia area native graduated from Immaculata in 1975. Portland was named head coach at St. Joseph’s for the 1976-77 season and coached the Hawks to marks of 23-5 and 24-4. She then served as head coach at Colorado for a pair of seasons before moving to State College in 1980.
Portland is survived by her husband, John, four children — John, Jr. Christine, Stephen and Delisa – and seven grandchildren.
Arrangements are pending and this story will be updated once they are finalized.
Photo Courtesy Penn State AthleticsBig Ten Penn State