Ed Swanson took the reins of the Sacred Heart University women’s basketball program in 1990 and has built the Pioneers into one of the top teams in the Northeast Conference and throughout the Northeast. Swanson’s career has seen the veteran coach eclipse the 300 career victories mark en route to three NEC Championships, including this season’s 2011-12 title, as well as earning him the honor of being inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. He starts the 2012-13 season with a career record of 384-253.
Wrapping up his 22nd season on the Sacred Heart bench, Swanson has built the Pioneers into one of the perennial top teams in the NEC. Leading the Pioneers to a third NEC Championship and a 25-7 record this past season, which included a 15-3 NEC record, Swanson earned his fourth NEC Coach of the Year Award. In the 2008-09 season, he led SHU to the program’s second conference title in four years with a perfect run through the league, only the third undefeated 18-0 mark in NEC history.
Over the past 16 seasons, the Pioneers have posted at least a .500 record or better under Swanson, a streak that has included six 20-win seasons. The magical run in ‘08-’09 included a pair of coaching milestones as Swanson moved past former Mount St. Mary’s head coach Bill Sheahan (124) in all-time Northeast Conference wins at 150 and counting while also eclipsing the 300-win plateau in career victories.
In 13 seasons in the Northeast Conference, Swanson’s Pioneers have never missed the playoffs and have never
finished lower then third in the final league standings. He has guided Sacred Heart to a 259-134 record since joining the Division I ranks in 1999-00. After a 0-5 start to the 2008-09 season, Swanson’s Pioneers got their season on track and finished the year with 25-8 record that included 21-straight wins, a school record and mark that ranked second in the country. After a perfect run through the NEC schedule, the Pioneers finished off their amazing season by capturing their second league title and trip to the NCAA Tournament in a four-year span.
The 2005-06 season was another fantastic run for Swanson and his program, as the Pioneers made their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance after capturing the NEC Championship in just their seventh season at the Division I level. Swanson led the Pioneers to a school record 26-5 record along with a then record mark of 16 NEC wins while he himself earned his 250th career victory. He has guided the Pioneers to six 20-win seasons, including five in the last seven years. Swanson’s Pioneers closed out the 2011-12 season riding a streak of ten straight winning seasons and nine straight seasons with at least 18 victories.
Under his leadership, the Pioneers have become one of the toughest teams on their home court, the William H. Pitt Center. Since the opening of the Pitt Center in 1997, his Sacred Heart teams have won 82% (172-38) of their home games. This year, SHU went 15-1 at home, a season bested only by a perfect 15-0 in 2005-06 and 14-0 in 2003-04. Between 2002 and 2004, the Pioneers put together a string of 19-straight regular season wins at home in the Pitt Center. Their .819 winning percentage at home ranks the Pitt Center nationally as one the toughest arenas for visiting teams to earn a win.
Since joining the Northeast Conference in 1999-00, the Pioneers have had three Northeast Conference Player of the Year and four NEC Rookie of the Year award
winners. Last year, Callan Taylor was named NEC Player of the Year and Gabrielle Washington was named NEC Rookie of the Year. In 2008-09 Alisa Apo became just the second player in conference history to win the league’s top-player award after earning the Rookie of the Year award the previous season. SHU center Kaitlin Sowinski joined former Pioneer Amanda Pape with back-to-back All-NEC first team awards. Apo became a member of that club with her performance in 2009-10, claiming another All-NEC first team selection. Pape, the program’s all-time leading scorer, was named both the NEC’s Player and Rookie of the Year while leading the Pioneers to their first-ever league title. Apo, Pape and Nicolle Rubino all earned Rookie of the Year honors under Swanson’s guidance.
Swanson has elevated the program to its current high state through a combination of shrewd recruiting, coaching acumen, and fine assistant coaches and players who understand the team concept. The evidence is there for all to see. In the past 16 seasons, the Pioneers have assembled a 326-174 (.652) record, but they have been even more formidable against conference opponents during that span, with a 233-72 (.764) mark.
After directing the Pioneers to a 20-7 record — the program’s first 20-win season — in 1995-96, Swanson was voted Coach of the Year in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s (WBCA) District I. He was runner-up for NEC Coach of the Year in 1999-2000, when Sacred Heart’s inaugural Division I team produced a 14-14 record and tied for third (11-7) during the conference’s regular season.
Basketball has always been an integral part of Swanson’s life. From his days as a two-time captain at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, to the transition of elevating the Pioneers to the Division I level, to directing his two-week long NIKE Girls Basketball Camp at Sacred Heart each summer, Swanson has demonstrated a passion for the game exceeded by few.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Sacred Heart in 1989. He joined Dave Bike’s men’s coaching staff that year, and, after becoming head coach of the Pioneer women’s program in 1990, did double duty for three seasons before becoming the University’s first full-time women’s coach in 1993. Immediately prior to Swanson’s
arrival, the Sacred Heart women’s team had a 4-21 record. Under his guidance, the climb to Division II respectability was accomplished within three seasons, from 8-19 to 11-16 and, in 1992-93, to 16-13 — the program’s first winning record in 11 seasons.
A basketball aficionado the year round, Swanson spends a good portion of each summer coaching and lecturing at camps and attending AAU tournaments in several states, in addition to running his aforementioned NIKE Girls Basketball Camp.
Swanson, his wife Marion and two sons Connor and Matthew reside in Shelton, CT.