OFFICIAL: Lamanna Hired as Whitman Men’s Basketball Coach

Photo Courtesy Whitman Athletics

After an extensive national search, Whitman Athletics has hired John Lamanna as the next head coach of Whitman College men’s basketball.

“I am very humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to lead Whitman’s men’s basketball program into its next chapter,” said Lamanna, who began his coaching career at Washington State University under head coach Dick Bennett and then-assistant and current University of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. “Whitman College’s academic tradition provides its students with a dynamic and transformative college experience. I am looking forward to recruiting, coaching, and graduating our student-athletes. I want to thank Athletic Director Kim Chandler and the search committee for their trust and vision. My family and I are excited to join the Walla Walla community and maintain the level of excellence within the men’s basketball program which Whitman and its community have become accustomed to. Go Blues!”

“I am very excited to have John join the Whitman family as our next men’s basketball coach,” added Chandler. “We had a very strong candidate field but John’s vision and commitment, and our confidence in him being an excellent fit for the program, department and the College put him over the top. We are thrilled to have him on board and we look forward to welcoming John and his family back home to Eastern Washington.”

Lamanna brings with him a track record of successful recruiting at the national level as well as the international level with student-athletes from Serbia, Spain, Brazil, The Bahamas, Indiana, Florida, Idaho, and Michigan. His strong national and international ties, as well as his commitment to recruiting quality student-athletes, will play a key role for the Blues. In addition to his dedicated recruiting efforts, Lamanna has directed successful youth camps and served as the director of an AAU Tournament hosting 150 of the top AAU teams in the country. 

Lamanna joins the Blues after five years heading up the men’s basketball program at Ave Maria University, the previous four also as the school’s director of athletics. Lamanna turned the program into one of the premier teams in The Sun Conference. Over the past two seasons, the Gyrenes won 30 games against conference opponents, including four conference tournament wins. The 2019-20 Gyrenes won 20 games for the second straight season, a first in program history. The team rose as high as 11th in the NAIA Coaches’ Poll, best in school history.

Lamanna also oversaw the development of the program’s first-ever two-time All-American, Leo Behrend, who was named as an honorable mention selection in 2019 and to the third team in 2020. The AMU basketball record book is littered with players from Lamanna’s tenure as coach, including numerous of the program’s top scorers and rebounders. The program’s efforts also extended beyond the court, as nine Gyrenes earned Academic All-Sun Conference honors during his tenure.

During the 2018-2019 season, his fourth on campus, Lamanna guided the Gyrenes to their first ever conference championship, as well as a berth in the NAIA Division II National Tournament. Ave Maria won the 2019 Sun Conference Tournament to earn the automatic berth in the national tournament, capping off a 23-9 season. For his efforts, Lamanna was named the Sun Conference Coach of the Year.

Lamanna’s diverse coaching background also includes stints at NCAA Division III Franciscan University and Division I UC Davis where he helped transition the program from Division II to Division I competition. The program at Franciscan experienced many successes during Lamanna’s tenure. Franciscan was honored by the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference with the 2011-2012 Team Perak Performer Award, which is presented to the program with the highest team grade point average in its specific sport. Additionally, he recruited the league’s newcomer of the year who would finish the 2012-2013 season ranked fifth in the nation in blocked shots.

Prior to his time at Franciscan, Lamanna was the Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at UC Davis during which time the team experienced tremendous success. During his tenure, the Aggies finished as high as third in the Big West Conference and participated in postseason play in three of his five seasons.  Lamanna recruited and coached four All-Big West Conference student-athletes and one All-Academic Big West Conference student-athlete. Additionally, ranked UC Davis with the best Big West recruiting class in 2007, and ranked UC Davis with the eighth-best mid major recruiting class in the country.

Through the course of Lamanna’s career, he had two stints with USA Basketball. First in the summer of 2002, Lamanna was selected to assist at the tryouts and training camp for the Youth Festival, where he worked with the top high school basketball players in the nation, who competed later that summer against other youth national teams at the World Youth Festival. The following summer (2003) USA Basketball invited Lamanna back for a second stint at the Olympic Training Center to assist with the tryouts and training camp for the Junior National Team and Pan American Team, which saw the nation’s top collegiate basketball players compete against other nations in the World Games and Good Will Games later that summer.  During Lamanna’s two stints with USA Basketball, he had the opportunity to work with members of the Basketball Hall of Fame and top college coaches in the country.

Since 2005, Lamanna has been the Director of the Reese’s NCAA Division I College Basketball All-Star Game held at the Final Four site the Friday before the Final Four. Lamanna has worked as an assistant coach each year under Hall of Fame coaches along with current top Division I coaches.

Outside of coaching, Lamanna is a published author with an article published by Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director Magazine entitled “How to Establish an Academic Philosophy as a Coach” and an article published by Winning Hoops Magazine which was a comparative analysis of two different man-to-man defensives.  Additionally, Lamanna was featured in American Basketball Quarterly Magazine in an article about how scouting and technology can lead to success.

A Spokane, Wash., native, Lamanna graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Washington State University and a master’s degree in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University.

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