Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Tonya Cardoza is the winningest coach in Temple women’s basketball history.
But the 20-win seasons which came so frequently to the former University of Virginia standout in her first nine years on the Owls’ sidelines suddenly stopped, and just finishing .500 became a struggle. And so Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson announced on Tuesday that Cardoza’s last season, her 14th at Temple, was her last.
“I would like to thank Tonya for all she has done for Temple Women’s Basketball over the last 14 seasons," Johnson said in a release from the school. “After evaluating the program over the course of this season, I feel that it is time for a change in direction. We expect to be a perennial postseason team and we will look for the right coach to elevate the program to that status.”
Tonya Cardoza (above, in December) is out at Temple after 14 seasons as head coach. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Cardoza arrived at Temple in 2008 after a 14-year stint as an assistant at UConn under Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, helping the Huskies win five national championships in her time in Storrs. She took the Owls to the NCAA Tournament in her first three seasons, winning 25 games in 2009-10 and 24 a year later, then went to the NIT in 2012.
A couple 14-win seasons marked the Owls’ final year in the Atlantic 10 (2012-13) and first in the American Athletic Conference, youth an overriding factor, but her 2015 squad made it to the WNIT Final Four, and they won 47 games the following two years, making her final trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
Since that 24-8 (13-3) season, Cardoza’s gone just 63-70 (.473), putting up an 11-7 record in league play last year and going 8-8 in the AAC this season, losing six of eight to close out the year.
That wasn’t good enough for Johnson, who’s just finishing up his first year as Temple’s Vice President and Director of Athletics after spending seven years as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Administration and Operations at the University of Texas.
It’s the second major coaching move for Johnson in his Temple tenure, after hiring former Texas running back coach Stan Drayton to lead the Owls’ football program in December.
The press release from Temple said a “national search will begin for (Cardoza’s) successor;” it’ll be interesting to see if Johnson brings in someone without prior connections to the North Broad institution, or someone with closer ties to Philadelphia to compete with the rest of the City 6, all of who’s coaches have deep local connections and have found success with local and regional talent.
Cardoza’s career record of 251-188 gives her the most wins of any Temple women’s basketball coach, and she’ll be remembered for bringing in some of the best ever to wear an Owls’ uniform, including current WNBA guard Shey Peddy, a two-time Big 5 Player of the Year.
Whoever succeeds her will have to replace another program stalwart in 2022 Cheryl Miller Award finalist Mia Davis (18.8 ppg/9.4 rpg), who finished her career with a program-record 2,376 points over five seasons. Davis was one of five graduate students on the Temple roster.
Depending on what happens with regards to transfers, there still could be a good bit of talent remaining, including several freshmen who played very well: Aniya Gourdine (7.7 ppg/5.9 rpg), Tiarra East (3.6 ppg/2.7 rpg) and Kyra Wood (3.2 ppg/4.3 rpg). West Catholic product Destiny McPhaul, a redshirt freshman, will also be eligible after transferring in from Virginia Tech last fall; several other sophomores and juniors got playing time this year as well.
With the first NCAA evaluation period coming up in less than a month (April 15-19) and the transfer market ready to begin heating up, Johnson will likely have to move quickly to ensure Temple doesn’t fall too far behind in putting together a roster for the 2022-23 season.