SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Director of Athletics Jennifer Bell and the Converse College Athletics Department are proud to announce the hiring of Jim Brunelli as the head coach of the Valkyries basketball team. Brunelli brings a plethora of knowledge to the Converse basketball program and will look to build off of what has become a competitive culture.
Bell and Brunelli are no strangers to one another, having worked together for five years during their time at Anderson University.
"Jim and I worked very well together, and I am thrilled to have him join me at Converse. He will be a great addition to our staff, and he will jump right in to help us pursue excellence for Converse Athletics," explained Bell.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to lead the Valkyries Women's Basketball program," Brunelli exclaimed. "Having the good fortune to work for Director of Athletics Jennifer Bell is a blessing, not only for me, but for my family. Her integrity, loyalty, and dedication to Converse College Athletics and its coaches is refreshing. My family and I look forward to building a special relationship with the Converse Community."
Prior to accepting the job at Converse, Brunelli spent six seasons at Gannon University, recording 105 wins, tying him for second on the program's all-time wins list by a coach. He won more games during his first three seasons with the Golden Knights than any other coach in program history. In addition, he guided teams to the NCAA Tournament during his initial two years at the helm of the Gannon basketball team.
Overall, Brunelli led Gannon to winning seasons in four of his six years, including back-to-back 20-win campaigns during his first two years. The 2013-14 season saw his team compile a 28-4 overall record, the PSAC Championship Game and the NCAA Division II Tournament second round. It represented the best first-year performance by a Gannon women's basketball coach during the program's 43-year history.
On a personal level, Brunelli reached a milestone with his 100th career victory on January 22, 2014 after an 86-47 decision against Pitt-Johnstown. He secured career win number 150 with a 71-63 overtime decision against Bloomsburg at the Hammermill Center on December 4, 2016.
Brunelli arrived at Gannon after serving as the head coach at Anderson (S.C.) University for five seasons. The Trojans won three conference tournament titles (two in Conference Carolinas and one in the South Atlantic Conference) and advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament three times during his five seasons at the helm.
Brunelli was named SAC Coach of the Year in 2012-13 after guiding Anderson to the conference regular-season and tournament championships. The Trojans began the season with a 72-65 victory at NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member Clemson, before finishing 23-9 overall.
The coaching veteran made an immediate impact at Anderson, leading the program to back-to-back NCAA Division II Tournament appearances during his first two seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10. His Anderson resume included 82 victories, six all-conference selections, three conference tournament Most Valuable Players, six all-tournament team selections, three conference tournament titles, three NCAA Tournament appearances and one conference Player of the Year.
Brunelli's Anderson teams showed a knack for peaking at the right time. The Trojans closed out his first campaign in 2008-09 by winning five of their last six regular-season games, before winning four straight to claim the conference tournament title by an average margin of 24.5 points. Three of those tournament victories came on the road. The 2009-10 season saw Anderson win seven of its final eight regular-season contests and claim hosting rights for the conference tournament where the program capture its second consecutive title and eighth straight trip to the NCAA Regional. The Trojans rattled off 13 victories in their final 16 regular-season contests during his final season.
Anderson ranked among the NCAA Division II top 50 during the 2012-13 campaign in fewest turnovers per game (15.3), free throw percentage (74.0), scoring defense (57.8), won-loss percentage (71.9) and three-point field goals per game (6.6).
Prior to arriving at Anderson, Brunelli spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator under former Gannon head coach Jodi Kest at the University of Akron. Kest, who ranks second in overall victories (105) at Gannon, led Akron to a 23-10 record, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament championship game and a Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) bid in 2012-13.
Brunelli was an assistant coach for six seasons (2000-06) at the University at Albany, including the last two as the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. During his tenure with the NCAA Division I Great Danes, he was responsible for the signing of All-America East selection Danielle Hutcheson. He also served as interim head coach at Albany for five months at the completion of the 2001-02 season.
"I am beyond excited about Jim Brunelli joining our staff as our new basketball coach," said Bell. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as a passion and commitment to the game and to the student-athletes that will help us continue to build on the recent success of the program. Throughout his career, Jim has proven to be a tremendous recruiter, and I am confident he will work diligently to provide a quality experience for our basketball student-athletes."
The Force, Pennsylvania native began his coaching career at PSAC member Clarion University where he was a graduate assistant from 1998 to 2000. Brunelli played for the Clarion men's basketball team in 1993-94 and earned a bachelor's degree in education from Clarion in 1996. He later received a master's degree in communication education and mass media in 2000. Brunelli and his wife, Stacey, have two daughters, Baylee and Jaylynn.
Brunelli and the Valkyries will kick off the 2019-20 season with an exhibition at Division I High Point on October 26. A trip to Fairbanks, Alaska will highlight the early portion of the schedule for Converse on November 28-30, followed by the Valkyries first Conference Carolinas game, hosting Mount Olive on December 3.