Beginning her seventh year at the helm of the Army program, head coach Sherri Abbey-Nowatzki has rewritten the story of Army women's basketball.
In the two years prior to her arrival, the program recorded only eight wins and 45 losses. Bringing new ideas and a fresh outlook to her team, Abbey-Nowatzki slowly started to rebuild the program. Going 7-21 in her first year at the helm, Army improved to 9-19 during her second season.
The 2000-01 campaign brought about one of the biggest turnarounds in all of Division I when the Black Knights posted an impressive 19-10 record. Three years ago, after suffering the loss of five letterwinners, including three starters, the Black Knights went 11-17, advancing to the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament for the third time in four seasons.
Then in 2003, the Black Knights took one step closer to the program's ultimate goal of winning a conference title by advancing to the tournament championship as a No. 6 seed. Despite falling short in the championship game against Holy Cross, Army finished with an overall record of 15-16.
Last season, the Black Knights got off to a 5-0 start which included a triumphant victory over South Florida at Christl Arena. Army also went on to capture the North Star Invitational at the University of Alaska Fairbanks after defeating the host Nanooks and Portland State. Army ended the season at 14-14 to bring Abbey-Nowatzki's career record at the Academy to 75-98.
A knowledgeable tactician, a motivator and successful builder of programs at every school with which she has been associated, Abbey-Nowatzki enters her seventh season at Army excited about the addition of her sixth West Point recruiting class.
A "player's coach" with a passion for the game, Abbey-Nowatzki made progress throughout her first six campaigns, laying the groundwork for the revitalization of Army's program. She closed out her "rookie" campaign with a pair of upset wins over arch-rival Navy and Bucknell. After snapping Navy's nine-game series winning streak in Annapolis, Md., Abbey-Nowatzki led her team to the largest upset ever at the Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament as No. 7 Army defeated No. 2 Bucknell in the opening round of the 1999 tourney. In her second season, Abbey-Nowatzki led the Black Knights to their most wins in six years.
Continuing Army's rapid turnaround, the Black Knights finished 19-10 in 2000-01, recording the most wins by an Army team since the 1990-91 season. Posting a 5-7 record in Patriot League play, the Black Knights pulled off a major upset when they snapped three-time defending league champion Holy Cross' 21-game Patriot League winning streak. As a result, Army was seeded fourth in the Patriot League Tournament for the third time in school history.
In 2001-02, a young Black Knight team came together late in the season. Army, for the second time in as many years, defeated league power Holy Cross at home at Christl Arena and advanced to the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament for the third time in four years, finishing the season 11-19.
Two years ago, Abbey-Nowatzki guided the Black Knights to their first appearance in the Patriot League title game since 1990-91 after defeating No. 3 Lehigh and No. 2 American. But the hopes of attaining the program's first league championship fell short after a 78-65 defeat at the hands of seven-time conference champion Holy Cross.
Prior to arriving at West Point, Abbey-Nowatzki spent three years as an assistant coach at Navy followed by a two-year stint as an assistant at St. Bonaventure. She accepted her first Division I head coaching position in May 1998 when she was named the sixth mentor in Army history.
No stranger to the service academy way of life, Abbey-Nowatzki served her country as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during her tenure at the Naval Academy (1993-96). Her dream of becoming a Division I head coach was realized when former Army Director of Athletics Al Vanderbush called to offer her the coaching position at West Point.
Abbey-Nowatzki's road to West Point began during the spring of 1998 when she felt ready to accept the challenge of being a head coach at a Division I institution. Ten years had been spent in preparation, first as a head coach at the Division III level and then as an assistant the next five years at Division I. Everything fell into place when the West Point opportunity presented itself.
There was no job she wanted more, so much so that she put other offers on hold explaining to suitors that West Point was her first choice. It has proven to be an excellent fit.
Knowing what it would take to rebuild the program to the state of competitiveness, she jumped into the heart of recruiting, mapping out an aggressive schedule shortly after her arrival on post. The results are now evident with her first recruiting class rating as one of the most talented groups at West Point since the 1980s.
Prior to accepting the position at Army, Abbey-Nowatzki served a two-year tour as the top assistant at St. Bonaventure (1996-98). In addition to her on-court coaching duties, she coordinated the Bonnies' recruiting program.
Her introduction to the military came at the U.S. Naval Academy, spending three years in Annapolis as a physical education instructor and assistant on former head coach Joe Sanchez' staff from 1993-96. In addition to her responsibilities in recruiting, scouting and administrative operations of the team, she was head instructor for physical education classes in basketball, volleyball, softball, bowling, golf and hand-to-hand combat.
Abbey-Nowatzki carries a wealth of head coaching experience and ties to the local area. She served as head women's basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., from 1989-90 before shouldering responsibilities as head women's basketball coach at D'Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y. (1991-92).
While heading the women's basketball program at Keuka College in Keuka Park, N.Y., from 1992-93, she assumed duties as head volleyball coach, head softball coach and residential director.
A 1989 graduate of the State University of New York-Fredonia, Abbey-Nowatzki lettered four times in basketball at the point guard position and earned a bachelor's degree in communication media. She received a master's degree in sports administration in 1990 from the United States Sports Academy in Mobile, Ala.
Abbey-Nowatzki and her husband Keith, who serves as an assistant on Army's staff, reside at West Point.