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Denise Bierly enters her 26th season as head women's basketball coach as the department's current senior coach as it relates to years and games coached and wins, and as the winningest active women's basketball coach (second among men's and women's coaches) in the Little East Conference.
In 25 seasons, Bierly has coached 695 games and won 467 times (18.7 wins per season) with a winning percentage of 67.2. In 2015-16, she won her 400th game with a 56-45 decision over SUNY Poly at the Arizona Shootout Dec. 29 and coached her 600th game Jan. 27 against Keene State College at Geissler Gymnasium. The team's conference opener at Western Connecticut Dec. 4 marks the 400th conference game coached for Bierly, as well as the program's 500th LEC contest overall since 1986/87. Bierly has coached 80 percent of the program's conference contests played over 33 seasons.
In the program's 48-year history, Bierly has coached over half of the seasons and well over half the 1,240 games, and has accounted for 56.7 percent of the program's 824 victories. Among active New England Division III head coaches, the 2014-15 New England Women's Basketball Association (NEWBA) Coach-of-the-Year ranks 12th in winning percentage (8th among those having coached at least 500 games) and tenth in victories (26th nationally).
In 25 years of conference play, Bierly has won 69.7 percent of 346 regular-season games, recording her 200th LEC regular-season triumph in 2015-16. She is 275-124 (68.9) overall in 399 LEC regular-season and tournament contests.
Picked for fourth in the 2018/19 LEC pre-season poll after coming off an eight-win conference season the previous year, Bierly led the Warriors to second place (12-4 record) in the final conference standings. After routing No. 3 seed by 35 points in the semifinals (after losing by eight at home to the Huskies in the regular season), Eastern trailed by double digits in the second half before toppling top-seeded UMass Dartmouth in overtime in the title game for its third championship in five years and fifth overall under Bierly.
With her second win of the 2009/10 season, Bierly became the fourth head coach (only current one) in Eastern intercollegiate history to record as many as 300 wins, and on the final day of the regular season in 2010/11, became the winningest head women's basketball coach in program history. In the second round of the 2012/13 Eastern Tip-Off Tournament, Bierly coached her 500th game at Eastern.
More than half (13) of Bierly's 25 seasons as head coach have featured ECAC or NCAA tournament play. She has led the Warriors to a No. 1 national ranking, a spot in a national championship game, and in 2018/19, a stunning three-point road win over two-time defending national champion Amherst College, which had won 164 of its previous 165 home contests.
Eleven times in the last 19 years under Bierly, the Warriors have won at least 20 games. In 2008/09, the team won 25 games – the fourth time in eight years that the team had posted at least 25 victories.That team was also ranked as high as 17th nationally, and captured a season-record 16 consecutive wins. The team's 23 regular-season triumphs prior to conference tournament play were the most in program history, and the team's 13-1 conference record also provided it with its first outright conference regular-season title (it had shared three regular-season championships) since the 1990/91 season.
In the first four years of the decade under Bierly, Eastern won at least 80 percent of its games each season– a feat never before accomplished in the history of the program.
In 2004/05, Bierly recorded her 200th coaching win. Incredibly, it took her just four years (120 games) – to win games 101 through 200.
Since winning ten of 26 games in her first season (after inheriting a 3-22 club), the Lafayette, Ohio native has led Eastern to at least 17 victories 19 times, with a program-record 28 wins coming during the run to the 2003 national title game. Bierly was named Little East Conference Coach-of-the-Year in her second season in 1995/96. Coming off a 4-8 conference record and fourth-place finish in Bierly’s first season, the Warriors won ten of 12 LEC games that year, good enough for a second-place finish in the regular-season standings. They went on to win the conference tournament title later that year.
Three times in all, Bierly has been selected Little East Conference Coach-of-the-Year. In 2008-09, she shared the honor after the Warriors equalled their most regular-season conference wins ever. In 2000/01, she was voted LEC Coach-of-the-Year outright when the Warriors shared first place in the regular season.
In Bierly’s tenure, Eastern has featured four E-Club Hall of Famers in Allison Coleman (2013), Jennifer Zabek (2015), Darcy Mund (2016) and Ashley McFetridge (2017) seven All-Americas, one CoSIDA Academic All-America, one national Player-of-the-Year, two CoSIDA Academic All-District selections, six New England players of the year, one New England Rookie-of-the-Year, 15 All-New England and eight All-District performers, 20 NEWBA Senior Classic picks, seven conference players of the year, five conference rookies of the year, and 49 all-conference selections. Sixty-four have earned Eastern/E-Club Scholar-Athlete Awards, and 54 have qualified for spots on the all-conference academic honor roll in the 12 years in which the honor has been awarded. Thirteen have been awarded the Holly E. Zimmerman Memorial Award (which recognizes devotion to the team and to athletics), four have received the Bonnie J. Edmondson Senior Female SportsPerson-of-the-Year, seven have been selected Eastern’s Female Athlete-of-the-Year, and five have been named Eastern’s Female Rookie-of-the-Year. Additionally, 12 players have attained the 1,000-career point mark, most recently 2019/20 senior Mya Villard.
In September of 2003, Bierly was honored as the New England Collegiate Coach-of-the-Year by the New England College Basketball Hall of Fame at its annual induction dinner and awards banquet. She is also a member of the Defiance (OH) College Alumni Varsity D and Allen East High School Halls of Fame and in the spring of 2017, was inducted into the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Her induction into her high school Hall of Fame came during charter induction ceremonies. In four years in high school, Bierly set program records for points in a career (1,395), season (475) and game (44)
Bierly holds a B.S. Degree in Sport Management from Defiance College and an M.S. Degree in Education from Bowling Green (OH) State University.
|EASTERN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL UNDER HEAD COACH DENISE BIERLY|
+-NCAA Division III tournament (national finalist in 2002/03)
#-ECAC Division III New England tournament