John Olenowski was named the seventh head coach in program history on April 15, 2009. In just six seasons, the 20-year coaching veteran has already left his mark. Olenowski led the Jaspers to consecutive appearances in the semifinals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) in 2011 and 2012, and his 2010-11 team set a school record with 24 wins.
Olenowski has compiled a 77-112 record during his time at Manhattan. He earned his 100th career victory at Niagara on Jan. 30, 2011 and has an overall record of 147-140 as a collegiate head coach.
In his first season at the helm, Olenowski led the Jaspers to a 15-15 record, including a 10-8 mark in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). His 15 wins were the second-most by a first-year head coach in program history, and he became just the second head coach in program history to notch a winning percentage of .500 or better in his debut season at Manhattan (ranking behind Manhattan College Hall of Famer Kathy Solano, the program’s all-time winningest coach, in each category). Under Olenowski’s tutelage, Michelle Pacheco earned First Team All-MAAC honors and Lindsey Loutsenhizer was selected to the All-MAAC Second Team. In addition, he led the Jaspers to a 65-62 victory over four-time defending MAAC champion Marist in the regular season finale, ending Manhattan’s 14-game losing streak against the Red Foxes.
The Jaspers built upon that success in Olenowski’s second season, posting a 24-10 record and qualifying for the postseason for the first time in eight years. After finishing third in the MAAC with a 13-5 conference record, Manhattan was one of 16 teams selected to participate in the WBI. In the first round, Manahttan picked up its first postseason victory since 1983 (and first-ever in a national postseason event) with a 52-48 triumph over Sacred Heart at Draddy Gymnasium. The Jaspers then topped Wright State, 75-73, in the quarterfinals, marking the first time that Manhattan won two games in a single postseason, before falling to eventual WBI champion UAB in the semifinals.
Olenowski’s Jaspers boasted one of the stingiest defenses in the nation in 2010-11. Manhattan finished third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing a mere 50.9 points per game, and held its opponent under 50 points 19 times. The Jaspers held Canisius to 30 points on Jan. 28, 2011, the fewest points scored by a Manhattan opponent since the 1991-92 season. Manhattan committed the 11th-fewest fouls per game in the country in 2010-11 (13.4), while also placing among the Top 25 in turnover margin (14th, +5.0) and steals (24th, 11.1).
Three Manhattan players earned All-MAAC recognition in 2010-11, including unanimous First Team selection Abby Wentworth, who was also named First Team All-Metropolitan. In addition, Loutsenhizer was named to the All-MAAC Third Team and Monica Roeder was a MAAC All-Rookie Team selection. His team also placed five members on the MAAC All-Academic squad.
In 2011-12, Manhattan went 18-16 overall, including a 10-8 record in the MAAC, marking the first time in program history the Jaspers finished .500 or better in conference play in three straight seasons. The Jaspers appeared in the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) for the first time, and picked up the first Preseason WNIT win in program history with an 86-53 triumph over East Tennessee State on Nov. 19, 2011. Manhattan also handed Marist its only conference loss of the 2011-12 season, snapping the Red Foxes’ 34-game winning streak against MAAC opponents with a 48-44 victory at Draddy Gymnasium on Feb. 4, 2012.
Manhattan was once again selected to participate in the 2012 WBI, marking the first time since 1981-82 and 1982-83 that the program qualified for the postseason in consecutive years. The Jaspers defeated top-seeded Robert Morris in the first round at Draddy Gymnasium, then notched a quarterfinal victory at Holy Cross before falling to eventual champion Minnesota in the semifinals. Manhattan won four WBI games in two years under Olenowski after notching just two postseason victories combined in the 31 seasons before his arrival.
A 1978 graduate of Saint Leo College, Olenowski began his coaching career at Morris Catholic High School in Denville, N.J., in 1979. Over 14 seasons (1979-82, 1995-2006), he guided the Crusaders to a 330-39 (.894) record and three New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) State Championships. During Olenowski’s tenure, Morris Catholic also won 10 Colonial Hills Conference Championships, six Morris County Championships and seven NJSIAA Sectional Championships. Morris Catholic also made a pair of appearances in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions, reaching the semifinals in 2003.
He also served as Morris Catholic’s athletic director from 2003-06 and was in charge of Major Gift Giving. Olenowski was inducted into the Morris Catholic High School Hall of Fame in 1987 and the NJSIAA Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2007, he was presented with the NJSIAA Outstanding Coaching Achievement Award.
In 1982, Olenowski left Morris Catholic to take over the women’s basketball program at Pace University. Over three seasons at the helm, Olenowski led the Setters to a 70-28 (.714) overall record, and the team increased its win total each season.
After guiding Pace to a school-record 17 wins during his first season, Olenowski’s 1983-84 squad went 25-5 (.833) and won the Empire State Conference regular season and tournament titles. He further built upon that success, leading Pace to the best season in program history in 1984-85. That season, the Setters went 28-3 (.903), won the Empire State Conference regular season and tournament championships for the second straight season, and claimed the NCAA Division II East Regional title. Pace was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation during the 1984-85 campaign. That 1984-85 squad was inducted into Pace’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.
While at Pace, Olenowksi won a pair of Empire State Conference Coach of the Year honors (1983-84, 1984-85). He mentored eight 1,000-point scorers, including All-Americans Tracey Jackson and Jennifer DiMaggio, Pace’s all-time leading scorer (2,125) and rebounder (1,254). In addition, his teams boasted a 100 percent graduation rate.
Olenowski returned to the collegiate ranks in 2007-08 as an assistant coach at MAAC rival Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks posted a 19-12 record that season, their first winning campaign in five years. Prior to coming to Manhattan, Olenowski was an assistant coach at Long Island University during the 2008-09 season.
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