Marisa Moseley hopes to help the UW–Madison women’s basketball program finally fulfill its potential

Turning the tide for UW–Madison women’s basketball may be Moseley’s most formidable task yet. The Badgers have had losing records for 10 consecutive seasons.
Marisa Moseley1
Photo by Darren Hauck

It may not have been the first time Marisa Moseley embraced a challenge — and it certainly wouldn’t be the last — but what happened two decades ago following her freshman year at Boston University still looms large.

Moseley, 39, who became head women’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin–Madison last March, was on a basketball scholarship at BU. Her coach, Margaret McKeon, knew Geno Auriemma, the legendary women’s coach at the University of Connecticut — today he has 11 NCAA championships — and suggested Moseley work at Auriemma’s summer camp.

“I was super-intimidated,” Moseley says. “I was 18 and going out to the No. 1 school in the country for basketball. I was nervous, but it was an incredible opportunity.”

That summer, Moseley made enduring friendships with many in Auriemma’s circle.

“I showed up on time,” Moseley says. “I did what I was told. I had energy and a good attitude.”

Ten years later, she was hired at UConn.

“I got the call to come back as an assistant coach,” she says. “It changed the trajectory of my life.”

Lessons? It’s never too early to make a lasting impression. And never shy away from a challenge.
Moseley has not. In 2018, after nine seasons at UConn, she accepted the head coaching job at BU. Her alma mater had suffered five consecutive losing seasons. In her first year, Moseley led the Terriers to a winning record. In her third and final season, they played in the Patriot League conference championship game.

Marisa Moseley2

Photo by Darren Hauck

Turning the tide for UW–Madison women’s basketball may be Moseley’s most formidable task yet. The Badgers have had losing records for 10 consecutive seasons. Going back further, there were bright spots, but a step forward always seemed followed by two steps back. Volleyball soared; women’s basketball sputtered. Yet through it all there was a sense that a competitive team could pack the Kohl Center.

“I’m excited to invigorate the crowd,” Moseley says, while acknowledging it won’t happen overnight.
“I feel like it’s the right time and we have a great combination of people.”

She’s been playing basketball since she was 8, growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her father got her started. Moseley’s play in high school earned her the scholarship to BU — she chose it over Hofstra University — and with the Terriers she became known for her defense: stealing the ball, blocking shots and eventually serving as team captain.

Her major was sociology — her mother was a sociology professor — and Moseley figured that she’d be a social worker after she got out of school.

“I wanted to be able to impact people’s lives. Lo and behold, I became a basketball coach and,” she laughs, “I’m a social worker.”

Marisa Moseley3

Photo by Darren Hauck

Moseley didn’t coach right away. She’d taken communications classes at BU and landed a production assistant’s job at ESPN. Less than a year in, she decided she wanted to coach.

“I realized I was a people person and wanted to impact people’s lives and pay forward [to my players] what I was given by my coaches,” she says.

Moseley was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota in 2009 when a UConn assistant, Jamelle Elliot, left to become head coach at the University of Cincinnati, creating an opening at the pinnacle of women’s college basketball.

A good friend of Moseley’s, Morgan Valley — who played for UConn and met Moseley at the Auriemma camp — immediately sent Auriemma a text.

“All the message said was ‘Marisa Moseley,’ and [it gave] Marisa’s cell number,” Auriemma later recalled. Meanwhile, Auriemma’s daughter, who knew Moseley from the camp, was also touting her.
“Everyone that had interactions with Marisa was raving about her,” Auriemma told the Hartford Courant.

The coach called Moseley, who was unnerved at first.

“But then, you lean in,” Moseley says. “It was a great opportunity.”

She was 28. “There are moments when you kind of question, ‘Am I ready? Am I capable?’ But then you realize they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t see something in you,” she says. “You have to rise to the occasion.”

Marisa Moseley4

Photo by Darren Hauck

When Moseley left UConn for Boston after nine seasons, Auriemma issued a statement: “BU is getting an amazing person who has the ability to transform the women’s program.”

In Boston, Moseley was the driving force behind the Patriot League’s decision to establish an anti-racism commission and had “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — often called the Black National Anthem — played at BU home games during Black History Month.

“We’re educators, too,” Moseley says. “We need to think how we can use our voice and our platform to effect real change.”

Moseley got the first call about the UW–Madison job — from a search firm that there was interest in her — the day after her BU team lost the Patriot League championship game to Lehigh University last March.

“I wasn’t real happy right then,” she says.

But after visiting Madison, meeting the people and considering the opportunity, she signed on, thinking, “I know how to build and I know how to turn things around. I want that challenge.”

There’s a sign on her office wall: “Everything starts with an idea.” Moseley says, a little sheepishly, that she saw it on Instagram.

But there’s nothing sheepish about her idea of coming to UW–Madison and working hard, implementing a vision and rallying others around it.

“We’re going to turn it,” Moseley says, “from an idea to a reality.”

Doug Moe is a Madison writer and a former editor of Madison Magazine.