by Tom Utescher

Laura Pruitt, the newly-hired women’s basketball coach at Chestnut Hill College.

Springside School and Penn Charter have been among the Northwest Philly women’s basketball programs seeking a new head coach, but the first area institution to make its decision was Chestnut Hill College, a member of NCAA Division II.

Last month the college announced the arrival of Laura Pruitt, who comes from Long Island’s Dowling College with impressive credentials as a former player and as an assistant coach at the Division II level. She graduated from Dowling in 2005 and most recently had been Associate Head Coach for the Golden Lions women’s basketball team.

“Looking at what she’d done at Dowling, we saw that she displayed a lot of growth and success,” commented Chestnut Hill College Athletic Director Lynn Tubman. “It was clear that she was someone who was really ready to be a head coach at this level.”

In a statement released upon her hiring, Pruitt said, “I look forward to the challenge of leading a wonderful group of young ladies into next season and beginning the process of building a very successful Division II basketball program. I am truly thrilled to be a member of the Chestnut Hill College family.”

In three seasons at CHC, Pruitt’s predecessor complied a record of 18-62 overall and 13-43 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. The Griffins’ new skipper was heavily involved in recruiting activities at Dowling, which was an important consideration for the search committee at Chestnut Hill.

“She impressed us with her understanding of the importance of recruiting, and doing that within the context of the mission of the college,” Tubman pointed out. “We want to attract talent that ‘fits,’ on the team and in the student body as a whole.”

Pruitt helped Dowling bring in players from Long Island and the greater New York area, and also from farther afield.

“It was definitely a plus that she’d helped them recruit in the Philadelphia area and had some familiarity with the basketball scene here,” said Tubman, pointing out that the Golden Lions’ 2010-2011 roster included freshmen from Cheltenham and Lower Merion High Schools.

During Pruitt’s playing career, Dowling won the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and reached the NCAA tournament. She ranks sixth among the school’s all-time leading scorers with 1146 career points, and holds Dowling’s career record for three-point field goals (227) as well as single-game records for three-pointers (eight) and total points scored (33). She was a first team all-conference pick as a senior.

Next, she helped her alma mater succeed in a coaching role. The 2010-11 team’s record of 17-12 came on the heels of back-to-back 20-win seasons, and last winter the Golden Lions finished first in Division II in field goal defense, only allowing opponents to make 32 percent of their shots from the floor.

“She’s already been down here and has gone out recruiting,” related the Griffins’ Tubman. “She’s coming in with a lot of energy and she just makes you feel excited about the future of the program.”