Courtney Banghart named coach at North Carolina, ending dominant run at Princeton

Courtney Banghart compiled a 254-103 (.711) overall record and 137-31 Ivy record (.816) in 12 seasons at Princeton while winning 89 more games than any other coach in program history. She now heads to North Carolina. (UNC Athletics)

Courtney Banghart took over as head coach at Princeton in 2007 aged just 29 with only four years as an assistant coach at her alma mater Dartmouth.

She leaves Princeton with 254 career victories and seven Ivy League championships, leading Princeton to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and then seven more en route to notching more than 36% of the program’s wins in its 48-year history herself.

North Carolina named Banghart its head coach Tuesday, seeing her as the key to a refreshing program restart after the messy exit of predecessor Sylvia Hatchell, who resigned earlier this month after 33 years at the helm in Chapel Hill, including a national championship in 1994, following an independent investigation finding that she made racially insensitive remarks to her players and pressured some to play through injury.

In its announcement of the Banghart hire, North Carolina Athletics led off by touting Banghart’s leadership credentials.

“Carolina is adding another great leader to its family of championship-winning head coaches,” the school announced, noting Banghart was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Women’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2015.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who has made Carolina what it is: the women who have worn the Carolina blue, Coach Hatchell who hung a banner, the men’s program that brought us the Jumpman, the outstanding coaches who have been a model of consistent excellence, and the alumni who have loved this place with all their hearts,” Banghart said in UNC’s press release announcing her hire. “I’m honored to be your coach, and you will get my very best.”

In the Princeton Athletics press release noting her departure, Banghart said leaving Princeton was the hardest decision that she’s ever had to make.

“I love this place and the special people we were able to bring here,” Banghart said. “Princeton’s a place that challenged me every day to be my best and held me to the highest standard. I was surrounded by Hall of Fame coaches and student-athletes that dared to be great in all facets of their life. I’m so proud of everything that we have all accomplished here, on and off the court. I have such gratitude for everyone associated with Princeton, as you made this my home.”

Banghart thanked former Princeton athletic director Gary Walters for hiring her in 2007 and current Princeton athletic director Mollie Marcoux Samaan for her support and leadership.

“I also want to thank the Princeton alumni who welcomed me in and supported me and my teams through the years,” Banghart said. “Coaching is a team sport, and without the talent of my assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and faculty fellows, this program would not be what it is. Princeton’s a place that captures your heart, and it’s a place that welcomes you home. I look forward to the great things ahead for Princeton Basketball. I am forever indebted to you all.”

Teams of the deal released by UNC state that Banghart’s contract will pay $650,000 for the 2019-20 season in base salary, supplemental pay, expense money and compensation from Nike as the school’s apparel provider, according to the Associated Press. That will gradually increase to $730,000 by her fifth season in 2023-24, with bonuses of up to $470,000 available annually for the team’s academic performance, winning an Atlantic Coast Conference championship and for how far UNC advances in the NCAA Tournament.

“She leaves a program poised for continued excellence on and off the court, and we are committed to building upon the program’s unprecedented history of success,”

“Her Princeton family is so proud of her and we wish her great success as she embarks on the next step in her journey,” Marcoux Samaan said in the Princeton Athletics release. She leaves a program poised for continued excellence on and off the court, and we are committed to building upon the program’s unprecedented history of success.”

Banghart led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last 10 years, with seven automatic bids and the league’s only at-large bid by a men’s or women’s team, comprising a run that has never been matched in Ivy women’s hoops history.

“I’m a winner,” Banghart said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “I’ve been able to amass the right people and I’ve been able to lead them further than they could go alone. That’s what will happen at Carolina.”

Princeton enjoyed an undefeated 30-0 regular season and NCAA Tournament first-round win under Banghart in 2014-15, resulting in her being named the 2015 Naismith National Coach of the Year.

“I have aspirations to win a national championship,” Banghart said Tuesday in a teleconference with reporters, per the Associated Press. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have left Princeton because it’s a place that I love, it connects to my core values and we win all the time. … We’ve just got to get started. It’s going to take time, and that’s OK. I’ve got time.”

Banghart plans to be on North Carolina’s campus Wednesday to meet with both the team members who have committed to staying with the program and those who have entered the transfer portal, the Daily Tar Heel reported.

“I’m a winner,” Banghart said. “I’ve been able to amass the right people and I’ve been able to lead them further than they could go alone. That’s what will happen at Carolina.”

And now Princeton must move on. Two-time Ivy Player of the Year Bella Alarie, the fourth different Tiger to earn POY honors under Banghart (after current Princeton assistant coach Addie Micir in 2011, Niveen Rasheed in 2012 and 2013 and Blake Dietrick in 2015), bade farewell to Banghart on Twitter Tuesday:

A New Hampshire native, Banghart was a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection for Dartmouth in 1999 and 2000 and served as an assistant coach there from 2003 to 2007.

The ball is now in Marcoux Samaan’s court.

Princeton’s current assistant coaches in 2018-19 were Micir, Carrie Moore and Cinnamon Lister. Milena Flores served as an assistant under Banghart from 2007 to 2018, and current College of New New Jersey head coach Chessie Jackson served as an assistant coach under Banghart from 2015 to 2018. Columbia head coach and alumna Megan Griffith served as an assistant coach at Princeton from 2012 to 2016.

Banghart’s departure marks the first Ivy women’s or men’s head coaching change since 2016, when there were four women’s and men’s head coaching changes.

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