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Bona coach Crowley going to Providence

Jim Crowley was bound to get hired away from St. Bonaventure sooner or later.

It happened Tuesday, as the Bonnies’ wildly successful women’s basketball coach was named head coach at Providence College. He will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday.

Crowley just finished his 16th season at St. Bonaventure, and it was one of his finest. The Bonnies went 24-8 and made the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the last five seasons.

Crowley compiled a 258-231 record over 16 seasons. However, his teams went 205-117 over the last 10 seasons and posted campaigns of 20 or more wins in six of the last eight years.

“It’s a bittersweet time because I’ve always dreamed of coaching in the Big East, but so much of my heart is with Bonaventure and the Olean community,” Crowley said in a statement. “I can never thank the university, the fans, the alums, the community enough, but mostly I can’t thank all of our players enough because they are the ones who made all of our success possible. This was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Crowley takes over a major rebuilding effort. Providence was 1-17 in the Big East last season and 5-24 overall. Friars coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl resigned in mid-April and accepted a job as athletic director at St. Francis (Pa.) University. She went 25-94 over four seasons. Crowley was on Providence’s radar four years ago when Robinson Fruchtl was hired.

“First and foremost, we cannot thank Jim enough for what he’s done for St. Bonaventure University and the women’s basketball program,” said Bona Athletic Director Tim Kenney. “His dedication and work ethic inspired the program to an amazing run of success both on the court and in the classroom. He persevered through some tough times, never wavered in his beliefs, and led the program to new heights. He is the embodiment of what it means to be a Bonnie. While we hate to see them move on, we congratulate Jim and (his wife) Monti and wish them nothing but the best.”

The high point in Crowley’s tenure came in the 2011-12 season when the Bonnies went 31-4 overall and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 after tournament victories over Florida Gulf Coast and Marist. Bona went 14-0 in the Atlantic 10 that season and finished ranked No. 21 in the country. Crowley was named ESPN national coach of the year.

He was Atlantic 10 coach of the year in 2009, 2012 and 2014. Bona also reached the Women’s NIT four times (2009, ’10, ’11 and ’14) under Crowley.

“He’s a proven winner, as he built St. Bonaventure into a consistently successful program in the Atlantic 10 and on a national level,” said Providence Athletic Director Robert Driscoll. “Our goal for the Friar women’s basketball program is to win a Big East Championship and compete in the NCAA Tournament.”

Crowley’s success was similar in part to the success of Bona men’s coach Mark Schmidt in that he was able to identify and develop under-recruited talent. Bona’s teams were not among the most athletic in the Atlantic 10 but played have played efficient offense and superb team defense. After struggling through his first six seasons, Crowley did an outstanding job getting his teams to limit turnovers and maximize possessions season after season. Crowley also had success recruiting talented smaller-school high school stars to Bona.

Crowley was responsible for mentoring and developing nine players who earned Atlantic 10 All-Conference honors a total of 18 times.

The Bonnies graduate their best player this year, Lancaster native Katie Healy, who finished her career as the school’s No. 4 all-time leading scorer. They also lose starters Nyla Reuter and Emily Michael.

However, they return three of their top five scorers and had promising recruiting classes each of the past two years.

“This program has never been in better shape,” Kenney said, “and we are well-positioned to attract strong candidates for the head coaching job. Our student-athletes, fans, supporters and the alumni of the program deserve nothing less.”

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com