Cardinal Stritch University Wolves assistant athletic director and former women’s basketball head coach Rich Panella announced his retirement from the University on Tuesday.
Panella has been with the University and its athletic department for 25 years.
“I’ve had so many wonderful memories and experiences at Stritch,” Panella said. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many special people in my time here and I will certainly miss it. I am looking forward to continue in sharing in special moments with my family as they’ve always been my team throughout my entire career, but I’ll always hold Stritch and everyone there very close to my heart.”
Rich Panella had been a mainstay at the helm of the Stritch Wolves women’s basketball program as he was the head coach for 23 seasons and a special advisor to the head coach for one year. He was officially inducted into the Stritch Athletics Hall of Fame on March 6, 2012.
That same evening, he was also officially inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame.
As a former head coach, Panella’s coaching record stands 548-139, good for an 80 percent career winning percentage. Having had one of his finest seasons in 2009-10, his final year as head coach, the Wolves came off a stellar season in which the program rattled off a 30-3 record, won both the conference regular season and tournament championships, appeared in the NAIA Women’s Basketball Division II National Tournament, and made it to the Elite 8 by knocking off the College of Idaho and the No. 2-ranked Davenport University Panthers.
A 2010 inductee into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Hall of Fame, Panella achieved a career milestone during the 2009-10 season by tallying his 500th career win. He tallied his 100th career win back on Feb. 24, 1992 in a win over Maranantha and registered his 300th win on Jan. 16, 2001 in an 87-44 victory over Trinity International University.
In his time at Stritch, Panella led his program to many milestones. On the national stage, he has led the program to the NAIA women’s basketball tournament 14 times. Four times his teams have made it to the Sweet 16, three times qualifying for the Elite 8. With this success, Stritch has been a regular part of the NAIA Top-25, reaching its highest end-of-the-season ranking of No. 4 back in 2003-04.
In conference, nobody was tougher to beat in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) than the Wolves. Stritch has claimed the regular season championship 16 times and has won the CCAC tournament nine times. The program has also gone undefeated a remarkable seven times in regular season CCAC competition under his guidance.
Panella, a strong recruiter, has had many great basketball players come through the program. 11 of the players he has coached have garnered NAIA All-American status, while 31 of them have been named CCAC All-Conference selections.
With this success the Wolves’ head coach has also received recognition for his achievements. A winner of 17 Conference Coach of the Year awards (CCAC & LMC), Panella was named to the CCAC Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2006-07, he was voted the WBCA Coach of the Year.
Panella’s success will live on forever at Stritch as the Wolves not only honor his legacy with his hall of fame induction, but by also having renamed Stritch’s home court to Panella Court on October 10, 2010 in front of a standing room only crowd.
“Rich is and always will be a legend at Stritch,” director of athletics Pat Clemens said. “He is not only one of the best coaches in the country, but he is a great mentor and leader. We wish Rich the best in his retirement and we will miss his camaraderie. He has touched so many lives of not only our student-athletes, but also the staff, faculty, and all those who he met along the journey.”
Visit the Stritch Wolves Athletics site for more information.