With 12 Ivy League championships, one Patriot League title and seven NCAA Tournament appearances, Dartmouth College head women's basketball coach Christina "Chris" Wielgus established herself as one of the nation's elite coaches. But after 28 seasons at the helm of the Dartmouth Big Green, Wielgus resigned her post.
Wielgus completed her 28th season (1976-84, 1993-2013) at Dartmouth with the program she built from the ground up, also coaching the first Big Green team that competed in the Ivy League in 1976. She is the winningest basketball coach in the illustrious history of Dartmouth College, amassing a record of 393-342. Including her two years as a head coach with Fordham, Wielgus sports a 430-363 overall record in 30 years as a head coach.
In its most recent Ivy Championship season, 2008-09, Dartmouth was just five points — an overtime loss — away from the first undefeated Ivy campaign in program. But with a 13-1 mark the Big Green still brought home its 17th Ivy title, six more than Harvard, which ranks second. The season was sweet for Wielgus, who started two seniors and two sophomores and coached one of her best defensive teams ever. The Big Green took power conference members Michigan State and Arkansas to the wire while finding the gritty identity that would allow it to run through the Ivy slate, including an 11-game winning streak.
On March 10, 2009, Wielgus won her 400th career game in fitting fashion as Dartmouth topped Harvard, then one game back, to clinch its first outright Ivy Championship since 2000 in front of 1,700 fans at Leede Arena. She also witnessed one of her finest guards ever, two-time first team All-Ivy honoree Koren Schram '09, score her 1000th point that magical championship night.
The previous championship season, 2008, was one in which most had written off the Big Green after a slow start. Wielgus and her squad rallied to post an 11-3 Ivy record and force a three-way playoff for the NCAA Tournament bid. After topping Harvard in the first round, Dartmouth fell to Cornell, who had received a first-round bye after a coin pull, in the final game, but still advanced to the Postseason WNIT.
Wielgus has been particularly successful against the Ivy League. During her 28-year tenure the Big Green boasts a staggering 227-122 record against Ivy opponents, as well as 12 conference titles and all seven of Dartmouth's forays into the NCAA tournament (1983, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006 and 2009). In 1980-81, Wielgus led the Big Green to a 20-9 record, earning Dartmouth a spot in the EAIAW tournament.
During her tenure, Wielgus has created one of the most consistent programs in the Ivies. The Big Green has finished third or better in the conference standings in 19 of her last 25 years at the helm. She is responsible for 12 of Dartmouth's 17 Ivy League championships. She has mentored five Ivy League players of the year honored seven times and eight Ivy League rookies of the year, including Brittney Smith '11, who won both awards back-to-back in her first two seasons. Wielgus' players have put up staggering numbers for All-Ivy recognition as well, with 16 first-team players honored 28 times and 35 total All-Ivy players recognized 81 times.
Wielgus continues to be a big-game coach, winning playoffs in 2005 and 2006 for the League's NCAA Tournament bid. The Big Green is in a streak of five consecutive postseason appearances dating back to 2005, going to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2009 and earning a Postseason WNIT bid in 2007 and 2008. At the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the Big Green put forth a tremendous effort against third-seeded Rutgers. Dartmouth valiantly came back from an 11-point deficit late in the game, but eventually fell 63-58 to the Big East Champions. The 2009 Big Green fell to eventual Elite Eight team and #1 seed Maryland.
During her tenure, she has led Dartmouth to two of the biggest comeback victories in NCAA history including a 21-point comeback win against Siena on Jan. 2, 2006, which ranks second.
Wielgus first took over the program in just its fifth year of existence (1976-77) and led the Big Green to unprecedented heights, winning four consecutive Ivy League titles from 1980-83 before leaving Hanover in 1984 after eight seasons. She returned to the College on the Hill prior to the 1993-94 season and has revitalized the most decorated women's basketball program in the Ivy League, leading Dartmouth to seven more Ivy League championships and five additional NCAA tournament appearances.
Wielgus' second stint at Dartmouth came after a successful two-year reign at Fordham University. Under her tutelage, the Rams had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 13 years, highlighted by the 1991-92 campaign - Wielgus' first at Rose Hill - when they went 21-8 and won both the Patriot League regular season and postseason tournament titles.
In between her first Dartmouth stint and her two-year stay at Fordham, Wielgus remained actively involved in women's basketball around the country. She served as training camp coordinator for the United States women's basketball teams that won gold medals at the 1986 Goodwill Games and the 1986 World Championships. Wielgus also directed the Developmental Basketball Program in Hilton Head, S.C. and the All-Star Basketball Camps in Baton Rouge, La. and Jacksonville, Fla. Today, she is director of the All-Star Basketball Camp that runs during the summer in Hanover.
In addition to coaching basketball, Wielgus has proven herself adept in the field of business as well. She worked as a consultant at Chemical Bank in New York City from 1989-91.
Wielgus holds the unique honor of being the only active Dartmouth coach to be a member of the College's "Wearers of the Green." Under criteria for admission into the athletic honor society, Big Green coaches may be inducted only after retiring or leaving the College. Wielgus was a 1989 inductee and was also the keynote speaker at that awards presentation.
A 1974 graduate of Springfield, Wielgus was a physical education instructor before coming to Dartmouth. Wielgus was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Springfield College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007.
Wielgus is a native of New York and currently resides in Hanover and has two grown sons, Christopher and Thomas.