The Winningest Coach in St. John’s Women’s Basketball History

After contributing to the St. John’s Women’s Basketball program for nearly 20 years, culminating in the Johnnies’ 2016 Big East championship, head coach Joe Tartamella is now the winningest coach in St. John’s history. Tartamella now has 181 wins and counting, which shattered the previous record of 176 wins.

The old record was held by Kim Barnes Arcio, the head coach from 2002 to 2012, who mentored Tartamella during his coaching journey. After accepting a position as head coach of the University of Michigan’s Women’s basketball team, which she still holds today, the path was cleared for Tartamella to take over. 

“I’m not even in this seat without Kim giving me the opportunity,” Tartamella told The Torch in a WebEx interview. “It’s an honor and privilege to continue what Kim has done.”

He started as a graduate assistant for the St. John’s Women’s Basketball team, graduating from the University with a masters degree in marketing management in 2004. Tartamella worked his way up to the assistant coach, then associate head coach, before becoming the head coach of the program in 2012.  Being at St. John’s this long, Tartamella wants to thank St. John’s for letting him grow into the coach he is today. When becoming head coach, he didn’t expect the extensive changes to his role.

“I think I probably lived and died with every play when I first got the job,” Tartamella said on his growth as a coach. “Everyone thinks that they are ready, but until you are in that spot, you don’t understand the depth and breadth of what you have to deal with on a daily basis.”

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

He went on to say that all that first-year stress has eased over the years, even though Tartamella inherited the program with high expectations. In his inaugural season as head coach, the Women’s Basketball team was riding a streak of three straight NCAA tournament appearances. “It calms down, and you get used to the flow of it,” Tartamella said. The coach entered with poise, as Tartamella extended the streak to five straght NCAA tournament appearances and ten straight postseason tournament appearances in his first five years.

As it turns out, winning the 2016 Big East Tournament to keep that streak of NCAA Tournament appearances alive is one of Tartamella’s most memorable moments in coaching. “Obviously, our Big East championship was pretty special to do,” Tartamella said. “To do something that hadn’t happened in 28 years, at that moment, to see our kids and the enjoyment just over those three days.”

Along with coming into the role of head coach, the way he coaches the team is not the same. “Every year is different; every team is different. Players change, personalities change, kids you recruit change, expectations don’t, though,” said Tartamella.  “We continue to build on what we have done in the past.” Another favorite memory of his is from playing in the NCAA tournament at Tennessee and seeing four of his players drafted to the WNBA. Taratmella says that as  one of his players goes through a career milestone, he is  proud to be one of their cheerleaders.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Taratmella continues to think about the program’s development and success. “I’m just proud of the ability to continue to lead us here in the future,” said Taratmella.