It will be at least November before Danielle O’Banion can walk the sideline as head coach of the Loyola Maryland women’s program, and she is already itching at the thought of the seven-month wait.
“It’s wholly and entirely too long,” she said with a laugh. “I’m extremely humbled and proud. And I’m ready to get to work.”
O’Banion, who was most recently an assistant coach at Minnesota, was announced Friday morning as the Greyhounds’ 12th head coach. She succeeds Joe Logan, the program’s all-time leader in wins with 184 whose contract was not renewed.
Loyola Maryland athletic director and assistant vice president Donna M. Woodruff said she and members of a search committee selected O’Banion, who grew up in the Washington, D.C., metro area and played basketball at Boston College, among a pool of nine “very attractive” candidates.
“With Danielle, her background as far as being a student-athlete herself at BC and then the stops that she’s had where they were winning programs and some of the influence she had along the way, those are some of the things that are attractive on paper,” Woodruff said. “And then having the opportunity to have spoken with her and then watching her interact with some other people that represent the institution, we all came away with a sense that she’s the full package and would help us to reach those goals as the leader of that program.”
O’Banion, 42, has been coaching at the NCAA Division I level for 20 years, most recently for the past three years in a second stint with the Golden Gophers with whom she first coached from 2002 to 2007.
O’Banion said she was content remaining at Minnesota, which finished with above-. 500 records in 2018-19 and 2019-20 and qualified for the WNIT in 2019.
“We’re trending in an absolutely wonderful direction. So I can honestly say that I was not actively looking to leave Minnesota,” she said. “However, I also recognize when God has a plan, and this opportunity at Loyola — with the way our values align, the vision Donna has for the women’s basketball program — makes it bittersweet. It’s hard to leave Minnesota, but I’m extremely excited to get to Loyola.”
O’Banion has also worked at Harvard where she was an assistant coach from 2001 to 2002, Memphis where she was the associate head coach from 2009 to 2012 and 2016 to 2018, and Kent State where she was the head coach from 2012 to 2016.
In four seasons at Kent State, O’Banion’s teams compiled an overall record of 21-98 and a Mid-American Conference mark of 11-59. Her tenure was briefly upstaged when she was diagnosed with stage 2 lymphoma on Nov. 12, 2014.
Despite the diagnosis, O’Banion coached all 30 games that season, and on May 12, 2015, she announced via social media that the cancer was in remission. In recognition of her fight, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association gave O’Banion the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award for women’s basketball at the 2016 Final Four.
O’Banion said that period of life has influenced her philosophy as a coach.
“I am so thankful to have been through that part of my life and to be here today, to even have a conversation about it,” she said. “I would say that process — going through treatment and not being a cancer patient anymore — has helped adjust my perspective and adjust my priorities. That unquestionably is one of the reasons why I’m sprinting to Loyola. I value family, I value fit, and I value quality of life. So I’m just excited about the fit at Loyola and the ability to win championships at Loyola because all of those values are just so important to me as a result of having been through that part of my life.”
Woodruff pointed out that O’Banion was tasked with overhauling the Golden Flashes program, recruiting 17 players, including four who eventually played professionally.
“What Danielle had to do at Kent State was build that program,” Woodruff said. “She was not left with a huge number of players. So she recruited a ton, and what you saw was she had built a program that was ready for success, and that was demonstrated the next year. So I was actually impressed that she had done that even though that may not have shown in the way that you or I might evaluate from the outside.”
Under Logan, a 1996 Loyola graduate who had spent 16 years as the head coach, the Greyhounds amassed a 184-287 record and advanced to three Patriot League and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title games, including the 2016 Patriot League final. The 2011 squad played in the school’s first Women’s National Invitation Tournament, scoring the program’s first postseason victory by edging Old Dominion, 67-65, in the first round March 16, and tied the school record for wins in a season with 21.
Logan was named the MAAC’s Coach of the Year in 2006-07, and his first two teams amassed 38 wins. His players collected 20 all-conference selections and 12 All-Rookie team honors and were major award winners seven times during his tenure.
He departed as the program’s all-time leader in wins.
O’Banion said she is encouraged by what she has seen of the returning players on game film and said one of her priorities will involve adding size to the roster. But she declined to give a timetable for molding the program into a contender for a Patriot League championship.
“I just know that I’m extremely competitive and wholly committed and very impatient,” she said. “So no one will be more committed to showing progress than I, and I’ve said throughout the interview process that the truth of the matter is, folks will see immediate improvement based on the way our women engage in our campus community, based on the way they carry themselves around campus with their shoulders back and chests up engaging others.”
While emphasizing the need to give O’Banion time and room to bring in the types of players she think can help improve the roster, Woodruff did not lower her expectations.
“I want us to compete for championships,” she said. “I think that the Patriot League offers us the opportunity to be competitive. It does take a lot of work and commitment, and I expect her to be able to bring a vision and a plan for how we do get to compete for championships in the next few years. I expect to be a partner with her. I want to be in this together, and we’ll support her as she leads that team.”
A member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association for 20 years, O’Banion was a member of the organization’s board of directors from 2013 to 2015 and the awards committee from 2011 to 2012. She was the second woman to be named president of Black Coaches and Administrators, staying in that position for 2011-12 after working on the group’s board of directors for four seasons.
A former resident of Arlington, Virginia, who was a Washington Post All-Metro guard at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, O’Banion played at Boston College from 1997 to 2001 where she helped the Eagles appear in their first two NCAA tournaments. After serving as a co-captain and earning Big East Academic All-Star honors as a senior, she graduated in 2001 with a bachelor’s in psychology that included minoring in Hispanic studies.
Golden Gophers head coach Lindsay Whalen, who was coached by O’Banion from 2002 to 2004 when the 2003 team advanced to its first Sweet 16 and the 2004 squad earned its first Final Four appearance, applauded Loyola’s decision to hire O’Banion.
“Coach Danny brought 20 years of experience to our staff at the University of Minnesota,” Whalen said in a statement. “During her time here, Danny brought a passion to the game that is second to none. Her wealth of basketball knowledge will be a tremendous asset to Loyola Maryland University as she leads the women’s basketball program.”
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Said Wisconsin head coach Marisa Moseley said in a statement: “Danny is the epitome of a team-first player and coach. She’s a phenomenal communicator and motivator, and her life experience as a cancer survivor will undoubtedly impact her student-athletes well beyond the court. At the same time, her basketball acumen and ability to teach the game are beyond reproach. I’m so excited for these young women to get a chance to learn and grow under her tutelage. Loyola just got a rock star.”