June 12, 2002
By Michelle Smith
San Francisco Chronicle
Santa Clara conducted a nationwide search for a women's basketball coach and ended up with a homegrown choice.
Michelle Bento, a Mountain View native who has served as an assistant coach at Syracuse for the past four seasons, was named the Broncos' new head coach Tuesday.
Bento replaces Chris Denker, who left Santa Clara to become the head coach at Colorado State late last month. Bento's duties with the Broncos begin Monday. She inherits a team -- minus two seniors -- that went 21-10 last season, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past five years.
"I'm going into a great situation," Bento said by phone from Syracuse. "This is a program that has been successful and I've got to add to that success. The foundation is there."
Bento, who was recruited by Santa Clara and played collegiately at Fresno State, is familiar with West Coast teams and players. Syracuse makes a yearly trip to California and played last year at the Broncos' West Coast Conference foe, Pepperdine.
Bento was in charge of recruiting and scouting at Syracuse and was recently promoted to associate head coach. She headed east after two seasons as an assistant at Fresno State. Before that, she spent two years as a graduate assistant and two as an assistant coach at San Jose State. Santa Clara athletic director Cheryl Levick, who chose Bento from a list of five finalists,
is also counting on Bento's East Coast experience.
"Michelle has wonderful Peninsula connections and she can retain her East Coast ties from a recruiting standpoint," Levick said. "She is a star on the rise." Bento is anxious to begin her first head-coaching job, and will get an opportunity to jump right in. The recruiting period for fall signings starts July 8.