March 21, 2022 

Why Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, a Virginia native, is the next head coach at UVA

'UVA is a dream come true for me. I could not be more excited to be home.'

The University of Virginia has found its new women’s basketball coach.

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To fill their vacancy, the Cavaliers are bringing a native daughter home.

Virginia announced the hiring of Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton on Monday. She succeeds Tina Thompson, who was fired earlier this month after four losing seasons in Charlottesville.

Agugua-Hamilton is fresh off leading Missouri State to its third NCAA Tournament victory in two seasons. In a total of three seasons on the job there, the Bears went 74-15 under her direction.

“We are thrilled and very fortunate to have recruited Coach Mox to UVA,” Virginia AD Carla Williams said in a statement. “She is a gifted teacher, a skilled tactician of the game and a person who cares deeply about her players and vice versa. Her teams play with tremendous tenacity and confidence.”

A native of Herndon, Virginia – in the northern part of the Commonwealth that brushes up against Washington, D.C. – Agugua-Hamilton attended Oakton High School and played her college ball in the northeastern part of the country, at Hofstra. She averaged 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per-game over 95 college appearances, and is the Pride’s career field goal percentage leader at 55.1%. She led Hofstra to the WNIT in 2006, the program’s first-ever postseason berth.

Agugua-Hamilton got her coaching start in her home state, working on the staff at VCU under Beth Cunningham from 2006 to 2009. In her final two seasons with VCU, the Rams made the second round of the WNIT, and then the first round of the NCAA Tournament, recording back-to-back 26-win seasons.

After leaving VCU, Agugua-Hamilton had a two-season stint as an assistant at Indiana under Felisha Legette-Jack, then came back to Virginia to work at Old Dominion under Karen Barefoot for two seasons.

Agugua-Hamilton then worked at Michigan State as an assistant from 2013 to 2019, where she helped guide the Spartans to four NCAA Tournament appearances.

In 2019, Agugua-Hamilton was tapped to succeed Kellie Harper as the head coach at Missouri State after Harper was called home to her alma mater, Tennessee. Agugua-Hamilton kept things humming in Springfield, winning at least 23 games in each season with the Bears. Missouri State has appeared – and won at least one game – in each of the past two Big Dances, and would’ve played in the 2020 tournament too had COVID-19 not intervened.

At Missouri State, Agugua-Hamilton won two Missouri Valley Conference regular season titles and was twice named MVC Coach of the Year. She was the first Black female head coach of any sport at the school.

“Coach Mox has far exceeded our expectations as a coach, colleague, and mentor to our student-athletes,” Missouri State AD Kyle Moats said in a statement. “Her record speaks for itself, but the way she has dealt with the many challenges in her path over the past three years has been remarkable. Our players have improved tremendously on the court and have grown so much more as people.”

Moats said a national search for Missouri State’s next coach will begin immediately.

In the ACC, Agugua-Hamilton will be among three Black women leading women’s basketball teams, joining Kara Lawson at Duke and Niele Ivey at Notre Dame.

“I am overjoyed and thankful for this tremendous opportunity to lead this group of young women at one of the best academic and athletic institutions in the country,” Agugua-Hamilton said in a statement. “I was immediately drawn in by Carla Williams’ vision for the women’s basketball program and the athletic department as a whole. I am certain I will thrive under her leadership. As a Virginia native, UVA is a dream come true for me. I could not be more excited to be home.”

While Agugua-Hamilton’s credentials as a coach are incredibly impressive, she was not Virginia’s first choice for the hire. Multiple sources familiar with the situation said that the first call Williams made was to Tammi Reiss – a UVA alum who played on its Final Four team in 1992. Reiss has been the head coach at Rhode Island since 2019, and revealed publicly that she passed on the Virginia job a few days ago, saying on Friday: “I’m pretty much decided that I’m probably going to be here (at Rhode Island) — 99 percent. I’ve made the decision early on to bow out at my alma mater.”

Sources told The Next that Princeton’s Carla Berube and UCF’s Katie Abrahamson-Henderson were also considered – the latter of whom played with Williams at Georgia in the 1980s. Both coaches guided their teams to the NCAA Tournament this season.

“Coach Mox has a reputation for recruiting and developing talent,” Williams said. “While these qualities are necessary to build a competitive program, we have been most impressed with Coach Mox as a person. Her integrity, work ethic, passion for education and determination to build something special here at UVA is inspiring.”

At 38, Agugua-Hamilton will be the youngest head women’s basketball coach in the ACC.

She inherits a program that hasn’t had a winning season since the 2017-2018 campaign, and has landed just one ESPN Top 100 recruit in the past five seasons.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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