Athletic department cleans house on women’s basketball coaching staff


Media Credit: Courtesy of GW Athletic Department

Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti helmed the program for five years. The athletic department announced that they would be parting ways with Rizzotti and her entire coaching staff Monday.

Women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti has been fired from her position, officials announced in a release Monday.

Rizzotti joined the program in 2016 after a 17-year career helming Hartford’s program. She tallied a 72-74 overall record in her five seasons with the Colonials, winning one Atlantic 10 Championship in 2018.

“I’d like to thank Jen for her relentless drive and commitment to continue the winning tradition of our storied women’s basketball program,” Athletic Director Tanya Vogel said in the release. “We are particularly proud of her team’s efforts this year through their ‘Bigger Than Basketball’ initiative to bring awareness to multiple social justice and humanitarian efforts. We wish Jen, Sully and their family nothing but the best in their next chapter.”

Rizzotti and her coaching staff – assistant coaches Bill Sullivan, Kevin DeMille and Ganiyat Adeduntan and director of basketball operations Christina Richardson – are no longer listed on the team’s roster. The three graduate assistants – Anna Savino, Ariel Stephenson and Sarah Overcash – also no longer appear on the roster.

Athletic department spokesperson Kevin Burke confirmed in an email that the entire coaching staff will not return to GW.

“I would also like to thank Ganiyat Adeduntan and Kevin DeMille for being extraordinary leaders in our department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work,” Vogel said in the release.

The squad played its worst season in a decade, when it tallied an 8-21 overall and 3-11 A-10 record in the 2010-11 season. The 2020-21 campaign ended 9-14 overall and 5-9 in conference competition, playing its final game in the second round of the A-10 tournament against Richmond.

Under Rizzotti’s tutelage, the program nabbed a 20-win season in 2016-17 but fell short in the A-10 quarterfinals and the first round of the WNIT. The squad bounced back in year two, winning the conference crown as the No. 5 seed and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Ohio State in the first round.

The squad had sub-.500 seasons in her final three years at GW, combining for a 33-50 overall record and a 20-26 conference record.

In a statement she posted on Twitter Tuesday, Rizzotti said her time as a coach extended beyond the wins and losses.

“For me, despite all the championships, success as a basketball coach is attending graduations and weddings; it’s crying uncontrollably at senior banquets, and talking about how much we meant to one another,” she said in the statement. “It means when you get fired, those kids you watched grow up reach out immediately to let you know that you changed their life.”

She thanked her coaching staff in the statement, adding that they put in the extra work to help her team get through a season amid the pandemic.

“We all should’ve gotten an additional year of eligibility and appreciation for supporting our players through the pandemic and putting their mental and physical health above winning,” she said.

Rizzotti’s firing comes exactly two years after former head men’s basketball coach Maurice Joseph was let go, marking overhauls of both programs.

Athletic department spokespeople Kevin Burke and Brian Sereno declined to facilitate interviews with student-athletes and Vogel, saying the department would not comment on “personnel matters.”

But 10 of the team’s 12 current members released a joint statement Monday saying the firings came as a “complete shock” to the program.

“Our coaching staff put us in the best position to be successful on and off the court, and as players the wins and losses are on us more than anyone,” the players said in the statement. “This season our coaches encouraged us to use our platforms for topics bigger than basketball, in ways that were unmatched within our athletic department.”

The women’s basketball program utilized this year to be “Bigger than Basketball,” focusing on social justice initiatives ranging from racial equality to mental health awareness.

“I will find the right fit for me, and I will continue to measure my success by the right things, the things that are Bigger than Basketball,” Rizzotti said in the statement. “Thank you to my coaching staff and to all the players that have impacted my life in such a positive way.”

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