Jennifer Azzi is a legend in the women’s basketball world by being a dominant player and impressive coach. She officially stepped down from her role leading the USF program on Thursday. (Courtesy USF Athletics)

Jennifer Azzi is a legend in the women’s basketball world by being a dominant player and impressive coach. She officially stepped down from her role leading the USF program on Thursday. (Courtesy USF Athletics)

USF women’s basketball coach steps down shortly before season

The University of San Francisco women’s basketball head coach has resigned her role just weeks before the first practice of the 2016-17 season.

Jennifer Azzi, who led the program to its best finish in almost two decades, informed the athletic department earlier this week that she would be stepping away from the role she’s held for the last six seasons.

“I feel that I have accomplished my goal of building a championship caliber program at USF,” Azzi said in a statement on Thursday. “The program is in fantastic shape with high-level student-athletes from all over the world. I am leaving this program in great shape to be successful for many years to come. We have built the program on solid values of respect, love, gratitude and hard work.”

The USF athletic department was not expecting Azzi to step down at such an inopportune time, but offered its support in a statement.

“We would like to thank Jennifer for her tireless efforts in taking our women’s basketball program to a championship level during her six years on the Hilltop,” USF Director of Athletics Scott Sidwell said in a news release. “In addition to being an outstanding coach, Jennifer is and has always been a first-class individual. While we are saddened to lose her, we respect her decision to step away from coaching to pursue other opportunities at this time.”

The university expects to soon have a leadership plan in place to replace Azzi. The decision will be driven by Sidwell and executive senior associate athletic director for internal operations Joan McDermott, who was hired in August.

Last season, the Dons women’s basketball team caught fire at the perfect time, winning the West Coast Conference Tournament as the six seed and earning a berth to the Big Dance. They matched up with Stanford, where Azzi starred as a player, helping the Cardinal win its first NCAA title in 1990, when she earned national player of the year honors.

Earlier this year, Azzi made national news by coming out and announcing she is married to her top assistant, Blair Hardiek.

“We are a community of inclusive excellence,” Sidwell told The Associated Press at the time of the announcement. “We have a commitment to Jennifer, to our students, our staff, women’s basketball program, and the athletics department.”

Hardiek is due to have the couple’s first child later this year.College Sportsjacob c. palmerJennifer Azziscott sidwellUniversity of San FranciscoUSFusf women’s basketballWCCWest Coast Conferencewomen's basketball

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