When she landed the head coaching job at Maryland in 2002, Brenda Frese started work in her fourth program in five years. She arrived in College Park after recent stops as a head coach at Minnesota and Ball State and an assistant at Iowa State before succeeding Chris Weller and her 499 victories.
She felt some self-doubt alongside a desire to put down roots after bouncing around so much, something she doesn’t recommend. Frese is now in position to surpass 25 years at the helm of Maryland women’s basketball after the university reached an agreement Tuesday to keep the program’s winningest coach on campus through at least the 2026-27 season. The new six-year contract begins next month with a base salary of $1.4 million, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, and includes an additional one-year extension for 2027-28
“I really was hoping that I could find a place that I could call home,” Frese said. “Just so blessed to be able to call Maryland home and meet my husband here and have our twins and to have been here for 19 years. That doesn’t always get to happen to coaches in our profession.”
The successes have piled up since that last move in 2002. Frese was named national coach of the year by the Associated Press after taking the Terrapins to the Sweet 16 and finishing this past season with a 26-3 record. The team won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships before it was upset, 64-61, by Texas in the NCAA tournament. Frese reached 500 wins in February and has a 512-131 record at Maryland and a 569-161 mark overall.
Frese also was named AP coach of the year in 2002 and is the fourth coach to win the award multiple times since its inception in 1995, joining Geno Auriemma, Kim Mulkey and Muffet McGraw. She has signed 13 top-10 recruiting classes during her time at the helm.
“When I first came here to Maryland, I didn’t quite have that confidence and belief,” Frese said, “and was just hoping that [former] athletic director Debbie Yow, who believed in me and saw something in this little girl from Iowa, that I could be good enough to get a contract extension so I could stay. And, obviously, the rest is history when you talk about four years [later] winning a national championship.
“Just proud of the consistency. I think sometimes it’s easier to climb to the top, but I think it’s a lot harder to stay on the top when you’re the hunted.”
Maryland won the national championship in 2006 under Frese and has advanced to three Final Fours, six Elite Eights and nine Sweet 16s during her tenure. The Terps’ most recent Big Ten championship was their sixth in seven seasons, and Frese was named Big Ten coach of the year for the fourth time. Maryland was the highest-scoring team in the nation this past season and set a program record by averaging 90.8 points per game despite having five new starters, including two sophomores and two transfers.
Frese also coached through the illness of her father, Bill, who dealt with prostate cancer that worsened during the season.
“Coach Frese has shown consistent excellence on and off the court throughout her 19 years here at Maryland,” Athletic Director Damon Evans said in a statement. “Coach Frese’s teams have shown unprecedented success in the Big Ten and have sustained success among the nation’s best. Her program is a model for many because the student-athletes she brings to Maryland are simply the best of the best. We wanted to make sure she is leading our Terrapins for many years to come.”
More wins and more championships remain the goal, but Frese looks at that from a different perspective. In a year when she became the winningest coach in program history and dominated the Big Ten with an all-time offensive team, Frese has never truly expounded on her legacy. She is quicker to point out that she wants her assistants and players to experience those same successes.
“That mentorship is also something, now at this later point in my life, that is really, really important to me,” Frese said. “[Legacy], it’s really not why I got into coaching. I mean, most people that know me, I could leave tomorrow. I’m not going to, but it’s not based on, for me, numbers or I have to reach a certain point to continue on.”
Maryland is expected to be the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten and to contend for the national championship as it returns the top eight scorers on last season’s roster and every starter. That includes third-team AP all-American Ashley Owusu; all-Big Ten first-team guard Diamond Miller; and the nation’s top three-point shooter, Katie Benzan.
“Obviously, when you see this land of the transfer portal, to be able to have that continuity and that stability within a team is really, really important,” Frese said. “So I’m excited to be able to see what we can build upon with this group. You have to remember, last year they didn’t get an offseason.”
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