Steven Rowell/ Staff Writer
When the women’s basketball team won 53-40 over the University of Texas at San Antonio on Wednesday, Feb. 5, it became a milestone moment for Head Coach Cindy Russo.
In season number 35 for her at FIU, Russo now is part of the 700 win club. Russo became number 14 to join the list of head coaches among Division I women’s basketball coaches to amass at least 700 wins. Among active women’s Division I coaches, Russo sits at number nine in victories.
While Russo is mainly focused on this season, the head coach took some time to reflect on the journey.
“It’s a great milestone and I’m very happy and proud in accomplishing it and what goes into it is a lot of people in getting me here,” Russo said.
“It’s a pretty big deal I think, it just shows how much knowledge about basketball and all the experience that she has, it’s pretty amazing to have her as a coach, and it’s a great accomplishment,” senior guard Jerica Coley added.
Russo gives most credit to current associate Head Coach for FIU in Inge Nissen who has been alongside Russo for the past 25 years starting as an assistant coach before being promoted to Associate Head Coach in 1992.
The milestone only added to an already impressive resume that Russo built over the years roaming the sidelines for the FIU women’s basketball team.
In the 35 seasons for FIU, Russo has guided FIU to six appearances in the NCAA Tournament, seven trips to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Russo also led FIU to 22 consecutive winning seasons from 1981 to 2003 and also FIU has 18 seasons of winning at least 20 games.
The list of accomplishments goes on, such as winning six conference tournaments back when FIU competed in the Trans America Athletic Conference and in addition to winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament back in 2002.
The best season under Russo which arguably could go down as the best season in program history includes 1997-98 when FIU finished 29-2 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament and climbed as high as No. 11 in the AP top 25 poll and No. 12 in the USA Today poll. Another memorable moment was in the 1992-1993 season Russo guided FIU to a 25-6 record despite only having nine players for the season.
With all the accomplishments, Russo can’t pick any single memory that stands out, but has said she definitely can keep the opportunity of coaching seven All-Americans but most recently in coaching Coley.
“She [Coley] is just a prize [to have] on the court,” Russo said.
Russo has helped Coley become a two-time Sun Belt Conference player of the year, shatter several school records while Coley led the nation in scoring last season and is doing so this season. Coley gives major credit to Russo for her development on the court.
“She [Russo] has been a big help making me smarter telling me how much film I should watch and taught me to be a student of the game,” Coley said.
Sophomore guard Taylor Shade was no stranger to Russo’s resume and her resume played a key role in Shade’s decision to play at FIU.
“It’s actually an honor to be a part of win number 700 for her. It is one of the reasons I chose FIU because of her legacy,” Shade said. “She developed great players at FIU and has had some people go to the WNBA and play overseas; I just think it’s her experience and her wisdom that defines everything with her legacy.”
When it comes to legacy and it all being said and done for Russo, the head coach doesn’t necessarily want to be just remembered for all the statistical accomplishments.
“I would rather them remember me as a person that cares and made a difference in lives,” Russo said.