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Former Penn State Women’s Basketball Coach Rene Portland Dies

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The former Lady Lions coach was 65

Rene Portland

Rene Portland, the longest-tenured and most successful coach in Penn State women’s basketball history passed away today at the age of 65 after a three-year bout with cancer. She was initially hired by then-Athletic Director Joe Paterno in 1980 and would go on over the course of a 27-year career at PSU to win 606 games, win 11 regular season conference championships (between the Atlantic-10 and Big Ten), make 21 NCAA Tournament appearances (including 11 Sweet Sixteens, four Elite Eights, and one Final Four in 2000), all while coaching star players such as Suzie McConnell-Serio, Helen Darling, and Kelly Mazzante, just to name a few.

Portland’s tenure was also marred by her “no lesbian” policy on the team, which reached a crescendo following the dismissal of former player Jen Harris in 2005. Harris would go on to sue Portland and Penn State, claiming she had been kicked off the team due to her perceived sexual orientation. In 2006, the university conducted an investigation of their own, finding that Portland had created “a hostile, intimidating, and offensive environment” for Harris. This ultimately led to Portland being fined $10,000, being put under a “zero tolerance” policy for behavior, and having to take mandatory sensitivity training through the university. Portland would resign following the 2006-2007 season.