New England native and 23-year coaching veteran Tory Verdi was named the 11th women's basketball head coach at the University of Massachusetts on April 9, 2016.
The word ‘momentum’ has been used around UMass recently to describe the upward trajectory of several Minutemen and Minutewomen teams and Verdi’s program has lived up to the billing, showing drastic improvement in each season since his arrival four years ago.
It was a record campaign for the Maroon and White in 2019-20, a year to be remembered for a slew of team and individual performances. The squad tied a program record with 20 wins, set a new top mark with an 11-game winning streak and finished tied for fourth place in the Atlantic 10 Conference, the highest under the league’s current alignment. Massachusetts hosted, and won, an A-10 Tournament game at the Mullins Center for the first time since 1998, en route to the league Quarterfinals.
Hailey Leidel capped off one of the most memorable careers in UMass history, becoming the first Minutewoman to accumulate 1,800 points, 600 rebounds and 200 assists and finishing just 18 points from surpassing the career scoring record. Leidel helped amass the most wins in a four-year stretch since 2001 and, along with junior Sam Breen, was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference Second Team. Leidel also received an All-Academic Team nod.
The 2018-19 season was one in which Massachusetts once again took steps forward as a team. Collecting 16 wins, the Minutewomen had more victories than any UMass group since 2006-07, while reaching the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals for the first time since 2005. Leidel continued her ascent up the record book, entering her final season in the top-10 in program scoring (1,353). Leidel became the 17th player in UMass history to record both 1,000 points and 500 rebounds and took sole possession of the program record for three-pointers made (226).
Destiney Philoxy burst onto the scene with an outstanding freshman campaign, earning a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. The Queens, New York native saw time in 29 games and provided a key offensive boost with 10.8 points per game to go with an even three assists.
On Nov. 17, 2018, Verdi recorded the 100th win of his head coaching career with a 74-59 triumph over Central Connecticut.
In his second year at the helm, Massachusetts continued to show signs of a promising future ahead, improving in 17 team statistical categories from the previous season. Individually, Bre Hampton-Bey turned heads at both ends of the floor around the Atlantic 10, drawing recognition on the league’s All-Rookie Team. In addition, Leidel continued to solidify her position as one of the top three-point shooters in program history with a program-record 83 makes from beyond the arc in that season.
Verdi’s Minutewomen made tremendous strides during his inaugural season in 2016-17, even in spite of a limited roster size. Leidel was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, while then-junior Maggie Mulligan was one of the most improved players in the league with 20 double-doubles. Leidel ranked as the No. 2 scoring freshman in the NCAA and ranked fourth overall in scoring among all A-10 players. Mulligan ranked 11th overall in scoring and second in the league in rebounding.
Verdi arrived in Amherst with a head coaching record of 72-61 after spending four seasons at Eastern Michigan University. His teams advanced to the 2015 and 2016 Women's National Invitation Tournament, including a Round of 16 appearance, and the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in 2015.
An experienced coach at both the collegiate and professional levels, Verdi-coached teams have advanced to postseason play 13 of the last 17 seasons since 2001-02. Arriving in Ypsilanti for the 2012-13 campaign, he took an 8-22 squad to a record of 24-13 in 2014-15 and 22-12 in 2015-16. He also secured the MAC's No. 1 recruiting class twice during his tenure.
"I am thrilled to be the head coach at UMass," Verdi said. "I knew the day that I stepped on campus that the University of Massachusetts was a special place. UMass women's basketball has all of the elements to build a championship-caliber program and provide an outstanding student-athlete experience. I am excited to take this program to the next level."
Under Verdi, the 2015-16 MAC West Division preseason favorite Eagles made their mark in the EMU record books. Defensively, the team totaled the fourth-most rebounds in a single season (1,364), while the team ranks seventh all-time in blocks (92) and third in steals (386).
EMU's high-tempo offense poured in 2,445 points, the third-most in a single season in school history, along with dishing out 435 assists, good for seventh-most. Additionally, the Eagles converted 218 three-pointers, ranking fourth all-time and marking the third consecutive season in which EMU has made 200 or more triples.
A large part Verdi’s 2014-15 record-setting performance came from the Eagles late run during the regular season and into postseason play. EMU finished the regular season with wins in its final four games, while also winning seven of its last eight. The Eagles appeared in eight postseason games, winning six of them. The Eagles advanced to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship, winning four-of-five MAC Tournament games, before advancing to the Sweet 16 of the 2015 Postseason WNIT. The Eagles rewrote the EMU record book with 124 different all-time top performances, including the most points in a season (2,549), field goals made (936), rebounds (1,539) and three-pointers made (223).
Verdi spent the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons as the top assistant at the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks advanced to the 2012 NCAA Sweet Sixteen and the 2011 WNIT Second Round.
Prior to his arrival in Lawrence, Verdi was an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska for five seasons (2005-10). The Huskers advanced to the postseason every year Verdi served on staff in Lincoln and collected the Big 12 Regular-Season Championship in 2009-10 with a 16-0 conference record.
Verdi spent the 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons on staff with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, reaching the postseason during each year, and the 2004-05 collegiate season at Columbia University as the top assistant and eventual interim head coach.
A native of New Britain, Connecticut, Verdi earned his bachelor's degree in elementary education from Keene State College in 1996 and added a master's degree in computer technology from the University of Hartford in 2003. He and his wife, Heather, are parents to Tyler, Avery and Bradyn. Verdi was inducted into the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame on April 24, 2016.