Alaina Woo

Alaina Woo

Nearly everybody but Alaina Woo thought she would someday be a head basketball coach. No one could have expected, however, that she would be a college head coach just two years removed from her playing days. But Wednesday, Woo, who was a four-year varsity point guard and 2013 graduate of Sequoia High School, was named interim head coach for Pomona-Pitzer College, a NCAA Division III program in Claremont. She graduated from Pomona College in 2017 following a four-year playing career where she is top-10 in program history with more than 1,000 career points and is the school’s all-time 3-point leader. “It’s funny. If you ask anyone around me, they would say they’re not surprised at all (that I went into coaching),” Woo said, who was in Portland watching the End of the Trail summer showcase event. If was Day 1 of a three-week recruiting trip for Woo. “For me, personally, this was an interest that evolved.” Woo said while she hasn’t met with her team, she did talk to the players by phone and said she was relieved by the response she got from them. “What they expressed was they’re at ease because they didn’t have to start over (with a brand new coach),” Woo said. “There are a million factors that led [the school] to offer the position, but they were looking for someone to continue the momentum (from the 2018-19 season).” Woo was an assistant for the Sagehens this past season under Jill Pace, who took the Tufts University-Massachusetts coaching job last week. Woo started her coaching career at Tufts, serving as an assistant to Carla Berube — who left to take the job at Princeton University. Pace was also an assistant under Berube before taking the Pomona-Pitzer job. “Very proud of [Woo],” said Steve Picchi, Sequoia girls’ varsity basketball coach who coached her all four years with the Ravens. “I’ve asked her to be my assistant (at Sequoia) before. I knew, in reality, I probably wouldn’t get her. But she’s the kind of person you’d like in your program.” Following her four-year career at Sequoia, Woo spent four years playing for the Sagehens, serving as team captain her final two seasons. She had a career scoring average of 11.2 points, but scored more than 16 points per game her senior year. Her final year coincided with Pace’s first year coaching the program and during exit interviews following the season, Woo said Pace encouraged her to think about getting into coaching. With that in the back of her mind, Woo began applying for jobs to use her major of public policy. But even then, basketball was still a factor. “Every job I was looking at, I was looking at the city and thinking of the colleges and high schools in the area, and who could use an assistant,” Woo said. “I said, ‘If I’m looking at this as basketball, maybe I should look into coaching.’” During a cross-country trip from New York to California, Woo had an epiphany and literally declared while driving through Ohio, “I think I want to coach.” The rest has been a whirlwind. She spent one season as an assistant at Tufts, where she was part of a squad that went 26-5 and helped the team to the Elite 8 of the Division III tournament. She returned to California for the 2018-19 season and was part of one of the greatest seasons in Sagehens history. Pomona-Pitzer went 22-6 this past season — its first 20-win season since 1992. The Sagehens won a school-record 14 games to finish runner-up in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) before winning the program’s first conference tournament title. That landed the team their first NCAA tournament berth since 2002 behind the play of Carly Leong, a freshman out of Palo Alto High School who was named SCIAC Player of the Year. Naomi Baer, a 2015 Menlo-Atherton graduate, wrapped up her four-year career with the Sagehens this past season as well. “I could not be happier for Alaina to be leading the Pomona-Pitzer Women’s Basketball program,” Pace said in a press release. “I have coached Alaina, coached alongside her, and she is a trusted friend. Alaina is a tireless worker with a strong basketball mind, and she cares deeply about this program, being an alum and having been an assistant coach. Pomona-Pitzer women’s basketball is in a great place, and I’m excited to see all that the Sagehens accomplish with Alaina at the helm.” While Woo doesn’t have a lot of coaching experience under her belt, Picchi believes the experience she does have should be beneficial. “The last two years, she’s been able to coach in super successful situations,” Picchi said. “She has practical experience with success.”

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