Tom Downey, Sports Editor

Cleve Wright speaks at his introductory press conference. Wright replaces Maria Fantanarosa as women’s basketball head coach. (Tom Downey | Sports Editor)

Miami University has hired Cleve Wright as its new women’s basketball head coach, Athletic Director David Sayler announced Friday. Wright comes to Miami from Division II Gannon University, where he went 233-100 in 11 seasons at the helm.

“What I liked particularly about his winning percentage was that in the last month of the season his winning percentage is 75 percent,” Sayler said. “What that really tells you is that when it gets down to the end of the season, when you’re playing conference foes and important tournaments, he’s been able to win. That’s really critical, to win down the stretch.”

Wright is the first full-time male coach in Miami women’s basketball history. Randy Roberts served as interim coach for 10 games in the 1997-1998 season. Excluding Roberts, Wright is just the sixth coach in program history.

“It is an institution that I am used to recruiting to,” Wright said. “It has those same types of philosophies, those same types of goals and challenges about being a student athlete. So I’m super excited about that.”

Wright led Gannon to NCAA Tournament appearances in five of the past seven seasons, including a Final Four run in the 2009-2010 season. Prior to his time as head coach, Gannon had gone to the NCAA Tournament four times in 28 seasons, winning one tournament game. Gannon went 37-1 that season and Wright was named Division II Coach of the Year. He is the all-time winnigest basketball coach at Gannon.

“Everywhere he has been….. he’s been a winner and that’s something we’re excitied to bring to Miami,” Sayler said.

Wright also spent time as an assistant coach at Northwestern University, Butler University and Duke University. He was a graduate assistant at Ball State University.

Wright said he is looking forward to putting together a coaching staff.

“I have some people that I am hoping [to get],” Wright said. “I think one or two of my assistants from Gannon will be coming. That will be good, because they know me a little bit. They’re still young but they know me and I’ll have some comfort with them.”

Wright said he would like to run an up-tempo type of offense, but will make the best use of the current roster.

“I would prefer to push it up the court and get the best open look that we have early,” Wright said. “If that’s not there; then we are an inside-outside team. Our post players will see the ball, will touch the ball. If you do that, then the guards can become more involved.”

Wright will face the tough task of having to replace two of the most talented players in Miami history in departed seniors Kristen Olowinski and Courtney Osborn.

“I think we’re really excited,” rising redshirt senior forward Kristin Judson said. “We all know it’s a new opportunity. We’re just ready to see what else unfolds.”

Terms of Wright’s contract were not announced.

Wright said he is looking forward to the challenge of competing in the Mid-American Conference and is excited for the opportunity he has been given.

“A week and a half ago, I didn’t see myself standing here,” Wright said. “And I am amazed. I’m so happy, so excited that I’ve been called here, given this job and given this task and this challenge.”