Even while she played basketball, people predicted that Jenny Boucek (Educ ’97) would be a coach one day. She never listened. “I have that rebel streak in me,” she says. “Really, I was in denial.”
Yet here she is at age 33, taking over as the new head coach of the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs, a team that has made two straight trips to the league championship series, winning it all in 2005. Among her players will be former Cavalier teammate DeMya Walker (Col ’99).
What made Boucek look like a future coach? “She had a great work ethic, number one,” says Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. “Number two, she always did the little things on the court that most people won’t do,” like diving for loose balls and setting good picks. “Also, she’s very good with people.”
Boucek was a four-year starter at guard for Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to four ACC regular-season titles and three NCAA quarterfinal appearances. She played for the Cleveland Rockers during the WNBA’s inaugural season before suffering a career-ending back injury.
The taste of the WNBA left her wanting more. “Seeing what the WNBA meant to society and its potential in terms of the culture—it excited me,” she said. Suddenly, coaching didn’t look so bad.
So she took a volunteer post under Washington Mystics head coach Nancy Darsh, living in the basement of a classmate’s parents’ house. That led to six years as a WNBA assistant in Miami and Seattle before becoming the NBA’s only female advance scout, for the Seattle SuperSonics, in 2006.
In Sacramento, she succeeds John Whisenant, who stepped down as coach to concentrate on his duties as the team’s general manager. “I’d marked [Boucek] in the back of my brain as a potential coaching superstar,” he told the Sacramento Bee.
Boucek talks at least weekly with Debbie Ryan. “She has become one of my closest friends,” Boucek says. “I love her a lot and care about her a lot. I trust her completely, and I know she has my best interests at heart.”