Joe Legerski Retiring as Wyoming Women’s Basketball Coach
LARAMIE, WY. – Wyoming Cowgirl head coach Joe Legerski announced his retirement last night after 16 seasons on the bench here in Laramie. During his tenure, Legerski amassed 314 wins (by far the most in school history), earned three Mountain West Coach of the Year awards, coached five All-Americans and won a WNIT title in 2007.
“The past 16 years have been an amazing journey for the Wyoming women’s basketball program and for me, personally,” Legerski said. “In May of 2003, I was appointed the head basketball coach for the University of Wyoming. The years have seen more highs than lows, and we were able to move from playing in front of a few hundred Wyoming fans to thousands over that time. The highlight being the WNIT Championship and a “sellout” of the AA.
“I have made the decision to retire as the head coach of this great institution. It is nice to be able to make this choice at this time in my life. I am truly indebted to the administration, support staff, coaches and players that made Cowgirl basketball such a success. Finally, the Wyoming fans have embraced Jamie and I, truly making Wyoming a special place to live and work.”
Legerski’s time at Wyoming has seen unprecedented success, as 10 of the 12 seasons in Cowgirl history with at least 20 wins have come with Legerski at the helm, including a school-record 27 wins that came during the Cowgirls’ run to the 2007 WNIT championship. He also had a meaningful impact on his players, as evidenced by the outpouring of support and congratulations from Cowgirl alumnae following his 300th win earlier this season.
Legerski’s teams have reached postseason play nine times during his tenure, including Wyoming’s only trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2008. That same year, the Cowgirls earned their first national ranking in both the AP and USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Team success has led to individual success, as 12 of the 25 1,000-point scorers in school history have played for Legerski. Overall, Legerski has coached two Mountain West Players of the Year, three MW Defensive Players of the Year, three MW Newcomers of the Year, two MW Sixth Players of the Year and 21 all-Mountain West performers.
“I respect Joe (Legerski) as much as anyone who I have worked with in college athletics,” said Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman. “I will miss him more than I can say, but I have to respect his decision to retire from the head-coaching position here at the University of Wyoming.
“I can’t thank Joe enough for everything he has done in building Cowgirl Basketball into the outstanding program it is, from successes too numerous to name on the court to the many successes his players have achieved off the court.
“He is a great colleague and friend. He has always been a team player for our athletics department, and he has been a great mentor to so many young women who played for him and so many coaches who worked with him. We will miss him being on the sidelines and I know Cowgirl fans will miss him, but we look forward to him continuing to be a part of our program as a Wyoming alum and a Wyoming fan.”
His final season in Laramie was one to be remembered. After losing the 2018 Mountain West Player of the Year in Liv Roberts, Legerski and the Cowgirls won 25 games, the second most in school history, played in their first ever Mountain West Championship game and advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT for just the second time in school history. The team also won 13 conference games, tying the school record for a single season that was done each of the previous two years, as well. Bailee Cotton was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and was named to the all-conference and all-defensive teams. Marta Gomez was the nation’s best three-point shooter and earned all-conference honors. Karla Erjavec set a freshman record for assists in a season with 124, and she was named to the league’s all-freshman team. Off the court, Clara Tapia became an academic All-American for the second time, becoming the first Cowgirl to do so.
Cowgirl fans will always remember the one-of-a-kind 2006-07 campaign. It was a magical year for Legerski and the Cowgirls as they won the WNIT Postseason Championship over the Wisconsin Badgers. Wyoming went 6-0 in the tournament en route to the championship. They completed the season with a program best 27-9 record, which eclipsed the 24-8 mark set in 1989-90, and the 11-5 record and second place finish in the league standings were the second most wins in both the Cowgirls’ MW and school history. It was the also the first time in school history that a Cowgirl team had won at least 20 games in back-to-back seasons, along with being invited to postseason play. For the second year in a row, Hanna Zavecz was named first team all-MW and Justyna Podziemska was named MW Newcomer of the Year along with earning second team all-MW honors.
He was named head coach on May 1, 2003 and became the sixth head coach in Cowgirl history. He recorded his first career coaching victory on Dec. 13, 2003, as Wyoming defeated Montana State Billings, 62-51. His first conference win came on Jan. 17, 2004 against rival BYU. In his first season, he guided the Cowgirls to an 11-18 record overall and a 6-8 mark in the Mountain West including their first ever Mountain West Tournament victory in school history. Two Cowgirls also garnered all-conference awards as he earned MW Coach of the Year honors in his first year with the program.
In 2017-18, the Cowgirls recorded back-to- back 20-plus win seasons with a 22-10 mark plus 13-5 for a third place league finish. The 22 wins are tied for seventh most all-time in school history, aided by a seven game winning streak during the beginning of the conference slate of games. Three individuals were selected for postseason honors. Senior Liv Roberts became the third player in school history to be named the league Player of the Year along with taking home all-conference honors. Junior Marta Gomez was named the Sixth Player of the Year while fellow junior Bailee Cotton was selected to the all-defensive team. For the accomplishments on the season, Legerski was named the MW Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
For the 2005-06 season, the Cowgirls completed the year 21-9 overall, while finishing 10-6 overall in the Mountain West Conference. They made an appearance in the WNIT for only the third time in school history. The 21-wins were, at the time, the most since the 1989-90 season when they went 24-8 and the ten conference victories at the time tied an all-time school record which was set in 1978-79. Three Cowgirls garnered all-conference honors, including Hanna Zavecz who earned first team all-MW and Defensive Player of the Year honors along with Megan McGuffey who took home the MW Newcomer of the Year award.
In 2007-08, the Cowgirls continued where they left off from the previous season as further marks where broken. They started off with an 18-1 record, which was the best start in school history, and tied for the best in the MW as well. With 24 wins, they recorded their third straight 20-win season, which had never been done in the programs’ history, and with a 12-4 mark in conference play it also was the most conference wins, breaking the 11 wins set the year before. Their play helped them earn the Cowgirl programs’ first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in school history, they were also ranked among the Top 25 teams in the country by both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Division I Coaches’ Poll. Their highest ranking was 15th in the AP (1/28/08) and 16th in the Coaches’ Poll (1/29/08). As a team, they were ranked in either poll for 13 weeks during the season and received votes for the other six polls. Wyoming was also honored with several individual awards. Hanna Zavecz was named first team all-Mountain West for the third straight year, while being named the MW Defensive Player of the Year, Justyna Podziemska earned second team all-MW honors for the second straight year, and Aubrey Vandiver was awarded third team all-MW honors. Zavecz also garnered Honorable Mention All-America accolades by the Associated Press and for the second year in a row was named to the State Farm Coaches’ Honorable Mention All-America Team.
Under his guidance in 2009-10, the Cowgirls again reached the 20-win milestone, finishing with a 21-12 overall record and a 9-7 mark in the MWC. It was the fourth time out of the five seasons that a Wyoming team had recorded 20-wins or more, along with their sixth consecutive winning season. Three Cowgirls garnered conference honors for the seventh straight year under Legerski as Hillary Carlson and Aubrey Vandiver were each named to the second team all-MW, while Emma Langford earned third team all-MW honors.
It was another record-setting year for the Cowgirls during the 2010-11 basketball campaign. Wyoming posted their fifth 20-win season out of the last six years by going 24-9 overall and 12-4 in the Mountain West. The 12 conference victories tied for the most wins set by the 2007-08 team and the 24 wins tied for the third most wins in school history. It also marked the Cowgirls seventh consecutive winning season and the second time in the last eight years they recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons. For the first time in MW history and only the second time in school history, a Cowgirl player earned Player of the Year honors. Aubrey Vandiver was named the Mountain West Player of the Year for her performance during the MW season. She and fellow senior Hillary Carlson were both named first team all-MW, while Jade Kennedy and Chaundra Sewell each earned honorable mention all-MW.
After a rebuilding year, it was quite a turnaround in 2012-13 after a previous year that saw the Cowgirls win just 12 games. Wyoming started off the season going 12-4 overall in non-conference action which equaled their win total from the previous season. During that time, Legerski would become the all-time winningest coach with a 72-50 victory over Pepperdine (11/24/12). They finished the year off with a 24-8 overall record. The 24-wins again tied for the third most in school history. In league action, the Cowgirls improved their record by five games going 12-4 and finishing third. The 12-wins tied the most conference wins with the 2007-08 and 2010-11 teams. Chaundra Sewell earned first team all-conference and all-defensive team honors. Sophomore Kayla Woodward was selected second team while senior Ashley Sickles and sophomore Kaitlyn Mileto were named third team all-Mountain West. Sewell also garnered WBCA Honorable Mention All-America honors and all-region VII honors, while being named Capital One Third Team Academic All-American.
In 2013-14, several more records and marks were achieved within the program. Wyoming finished with a 20-11 overall mark and a 10-8 record in MW. The 20-wins marked the seventh time in the last nine years that a Cowgirl team has reached that mark. Two Cowgirls earned postseason honors led by junior Kayla Woodward. She was selected first team all-MW and to the MW Championships all-tournament team. Woodward also garnered WBCA honorable mention All-America honors and all-region VII honors. Senior Fallon Lewis was also selected honorable mention all-Mountain West.
In his 12th season with the Cowgirls, UW went 16-14 overall and 10-8 in league play for a fifth-place finish. Two Cowgirls earned conference honors as Kayla Woodward and Marquelle Dent were each selected all-Mountain West. Dent also garnered WBCA Honorable Mention All-America and all-region VII honors. Woodward was named CoSIDA first team Academic All-District.
In 2016-17, it proved to be an extremely successful stint for Legerski and the Cowgirls. The team improved nine games from the previous year going 22-10 overall along with a 13-5 record in league action. The 13 conference wins were the most wins in conference play in program history. The team had a nine game winning streak during the season which was the longest since the 2007-08 season when they won 12 in a row. Three individuals were selected for postseason honors. Junior Liv Roberts was named to the all-conference and all-defensive teams, sophomore Marta Gomez was named the Sixth Player of the Year and newcomer Taylor Rusk was selected to the all-freshman team. For the accomplishments on the season, Legerski was named the MW Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.
Legerski came to Wyoming following a highly-successful stint at the University of Utah. As an assistant (1991-1998), and later associate head coach (1998-2003) for Elaine Elliott, he was part of the most successful women’s program in the history of both the Western Athletic and Mountain West Conferences. The Utes compiled a 254-96 record while he was there, including seven league titles. They were 135-35 in conference play.
Legerski earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business education from UW in 1979. He was an assistant with the Cowgirls from 1987 through 1991, before taking the Utah position. He was the head women’s basketball coach at Western Wyoming College (Rock Springs) for one season, finishing second in the region. Prior to that he was the head women’s basketball coach at Rock Springs High from 1984 to 1986.
Legerski, and his wife, Jamie, are parents of three children, stepson Zane Beadles, daughter Madison and son Joseph III.