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Contact: William Sodoma
Date: April 28, 2011
WATERVILLE, Maine --- Julie Veilleux attended the Pine Tree Basketball Camp at Colby College's Wadsworth Gymnasium as a youngster growing up in Augusta (Maine). The next time she steps foot on the court will be as the new head coach of the Colby women's basketball team.
Veilleux is the 11th head coach in program history and will take over a team which has won 46 games over the past two seasons and has made two straight trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"Julie really captivated our search committee with her energy and her presence. She has such a great emotional connection to Colby as her father is an alum of the College and she grew up attending basketball camp on campus," Harold Alfond Director of Athletics Marcella Zalot said. "She has prepared herself well for this opportunity by gaining incredible experience assisting at Bowdoin and at Navy. Julie has been successful everywhere she has been as both a player and a coach. Our women's basketball program is at a very high level right now and we are excited to go even higher. Julie is the person to take us there. We welcome her home to the great state of Maine with open arms."
Veilleux is well-known in Maine, starring at Cony High School in Augusta during her playing days. She took her talents to the University of Maine and helped the Black Bears make the NCAA Division I Tournament after winning the America East conference tourney in 2004 and helped the squad to league regular season championships in 2003 and 2004. Veilleux was an assistant coach for coaching great Stefanie Pemper at Bowdoin College from 2005 to 2008, winning New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) titles in 2006 and 2007 and making the NCAA tourney all three years.
When Pemper was named the head coach at Navy, Veilleux was her first hire as an assistant coach. After just one winning season in the previous 10 years, Navy had three straight winning seasons, won the Patriot League regular season and tournament title in 2011, and made the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time ever in 2011.
"Stef was not only a great mentor to me, but she has become such a wonderful friend," Veilleux said. "She allowed me to be such a hands-on assistant and that has helped to feel comfortable and confident that I'm ready for this. She led me to pursue this passion and fire I have for this career."
Pemper will be without Veilleux by her side for the first time in six years.
"Julie is really special and I couldn't be more excited for her. It's a great day for Colby and a real loss for me and Navy women's basketball. The past six years she has developed wonderfully as a basketball coach and a mentor, and was instrumental in our teams' success at Bowdoin and Navy," Pemper said. "This is a young woman who loves teaching basketball, loves molding a group of players into a team, and understands how to win championships. She will be a terrific leader for Colby. I've been fortunate to have some memorable days as a basketball coach and this goes on the list."
Veilleux came from a basketball-loving family in Augusta, which is about a 15-minute drive from Waterville. Her father, Gary, was a 1972 graduate of Colby and played a few years under men's basketball coaching legend Dick Whitmore, who just retired after 40 years with the Mules.
Veilleux played high school basketball under Paul Vachon and helped Cony win a 1998 state title. She was a Maine All-State selection and scored more than 1,000 points. Current Colby women's basketball player Rachael Mack, who will be a senior next year, also played at Cony. Veilleux was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 for her high school career accolades.
Joanne Palombo McCallie, the current women's basketball head coach at Duke University, recruited Veilleux to play at the University of Maine. Palombo McCallie, however, went to Michigan State University and Veilleux ended up playing four years at Maine for Sharon Versyp, who is now the head coach at Purdue University.
"I was really fortunate as a player to have such special coaches in high school and college," Veilleux said. "They both helped me tremendously."
Veilleux was a starter for three years at Maine before graduating in 2004. Her first job out of college was to join Pemper at Bowdoin. Pemper finished her career at Bowdoin with an amazing 235-48 (.830 winning percentage) and Veilleux was sitting next to her for the final three years.
Pemper and Veilleux quickly changed the culture at Navy, which had not been relevant in the Patriot League since the 1990's. Navy was among the top 13 most improved Division I programs in the country in 2008 and Pemper was the 2011 Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading the team to the NCAA tourney and the regular season and conference tournament championships.
"I've really enjoyed my time at Navy and we have something special going on here – so it's a little bittersweet," Veilleux said. "But I'm extremely honored to be going to Colby and have the opportunity to work with the community there."
Veilleux has a third straight job at an institution with high academic standards and she welcomes that challenge.
"I've been lucky to be at places in my coaching career that I really believe in and I believe in Colby," said Veilleux, who starts at the College on June 1. "Meeting the players and everyone else I met during the interview process makes this even more exciting for me."