As former assistant, Cardoza’s UConn roots run deep

Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza looks for a foul call in Temple's 78-48 win against Houston, Feb. 12. | DONALD OTTO TTN

Since leaving Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma’s staff in 2008, Tonya Cardoza has dreamed of leading her program to national prominence.

In each of her first three seasons as coach, Cardoza reached the NCAA Women’s Division I Tournament. In the four years since, Cardoza has not appeared in the postseason tournament.

“I think in this time, this is Tonya’s program,” Auriemma said. “She’s put her style of imprint on it.”

Following the team’s last NCAA appearance in 2011, the Owls have reached the Women’s National Invitation Tournament twice in four years, including last season when the squad lost to the University of West Virginia in the WNIT semifinal.

With a 17-8 record this season, Cardoza feels Temple is reaching its potential.

“We’ve been playing pretty good basketball,” Cardoza said. “I just want to be consistently mentioned in the NCAAs to the point where we’re a Top-25 team.”

Although Cardoza’s contract expires this season, she is confident she will return to Philadelphia and continue to develop her team to a prominent level.

“When I first got here, I thought we were consistently being a postseason team, and then we had two bad years,” Cardoza said. “But even in those bad years, we won 14 games. If you look back in those two seasons, there were a lot of times where we lost by 10 points or less.”

Following the Owls’ 85-60 loss to Connecticut on Sunday at McGonigle Hall, Auriemma said Cardoza’s squad is trending in the right direction late into the regular season.

Prior to Sunday’s loss, the Owls won six consecutive games. With four regular-season games left, Cardoza’s squad is in second place in the American Athletic Conference with 11 wins and three losses.

“It’s no surprise that they are where they are,” Auriemma said. “When she took over, it was still the end of Dawn [Staley]. She’s done what she knows she can do, get really good perimeter players. They play with a lot of confidence.”

Every member of Cardoza’s coaching staff has been with the team for at least four years.

Among those coaches includes assistant coach Willnett Crockett, who played under Auriemma and Cardoza at Connecticut from 2002-06, and played in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury.

Former UConn player Brittany Hunter served as Cardoza’s assistant coach during the 2008-09 season for the Owls. For the past six years, Stacey Nasser, a four-year manager at Connecticut from 2004-08, has been the director of basketball operations for the past six seasons.

In her senior year at UConn, Nasser asked Cardoza to mentor her as an intern, where she taught her how to analyze film and scouting reports.

“I buy into her system, and I know that she’s bringing the best out of her players,” Nasser said. “We’ve had a couple of down seasons, but the players are always great.”

Temple is one win away from its 800th program win. They can earn that when the Owls head to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse to face Memphis on Thursday.

“I’ve always believed in the process,” Nasser said. “Temple as a whole has been heading in the right direction.”

“I’ve always believed in the process,” Nasser said. “Temple as a whole has been heading in the right direction.”

Mark McCormick can be reached at mark.mccormick@temple.edu or on Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.

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