Joe Tartamella was introduced as the eighth head coach in the history of the St. John’s women’s basketball program on April 27, 2012.
In his five years at the helm of the Red Storm, Tartamella has continued the tradition of success that he helped to implement as a member of the coaching staff from 2002-2012.
Tartamella led the 2016-17 St. John’s team back to the postseason for the 10th-consecutive season as the Johnnies advanced to the WNIT Round of 16 for the fourth time in five total appearances. Additionally, the Red Storm reached the 20-win mark for the fourth-straight year. Three of Tartamella’s players were recognized by the BIG EAST following the 2017-18 campaign as Jade Walker earned a spot on the All-BIG EAST First Team, while Aaliyah Lewis became just the second player in program history to be named Defensive Player of the Year after the senior earned a share of the award. Finally, rookie Alisha Kebbe was named to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team after taking home the conference’s Freshman of the Week Award a league-best four times during the regular season. On Jan. 22, 2017, Tartamella became the fifth coach in program history to win 100 games with a 60-50 win over Providence at Carnesecca Arena.
In March of 2016, Tartamella returned the Red Storm to a place of prominence that the program had not experienced in nearly three decades. Following three magical days in Chicago, the Johnnies claimed their first BIG EAST Title since 1988. The road to the championship proved difficult, as the Red Storm had to face off against top-seeded DePaul on its home court in the semifinals less than a week after the Blue Demons wrapped up the best regular season in the history of the new BIG EAST with a 16-2 mark. Trailing by double digits in the second half, the Johnnies stormed back to take the lead in the final period, knocking down their final 11 shots from the floor and securing a spot in the BIG EAST Championship game for the second time in three years. In the final, the Red Storm put forth its best defensive effort of the season, limiting Creighton to just 37 points and claiming the BIG EAST title.
After its miraculous title run, the Red Storm secured a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven seasons and earned a postseason bid for the ninth-straight campaign.
Two of Tartamella’s players were recognized by the BIG EAST following the 2015-16 season, as super seniors Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant were both named to the all-conference first team. In addition, Handford became the first player in St. John’s history to take home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors after finishing second in the conference in steals on the season. Handford and Grant both indelibly left their mark on the St. John’s record book in 2015-16, as Handford became the program’s first 2,000-point scorer and Grant moved into ninth place on the career scoring list despite playing what amounted to just three full seasons in red and white.
In April, the two seniors became the third and fourth players in the Tartamella era to hear their names called in the WNBA Draft, as Handford was selected 27th overall by the Connecticut Sun and Grant was taken four picks later at 31by the Washington Mystics.
The Red Storm won 23 games for the third-straight season in 2015-16, bumping Tartamella’s career record to 87-45, good enough for a winning percentage of .659.
In 2014-15, Tartamella guided St. John’s to the postseason for the eighth-straight season, taking the Red Storm to the WNIT Round of 16 for the third time in school history. This past season marked the second time in Tartamella’s three-year tenure as head coach that St. John’s has won at least a pair of postseason games. The Red Storm also won 23 contests for the second-straight year.
Tartamella’s star player, Aliyyah Handford, was named All-BIG EAST First Team and WBCA All-Region for the second-consecutive year after registering the second-most productive offensive season in school history. The junior guard scored 655 points during the campaign, propelling her into seventh place on the school’s all-time scoring list. Two other members of the Red Storm were also recognized by the conference, as Danaejah Grant found a spot on the All-BIG EAST Second Team after scoring 580 points (fifth-most in school history) and Amber Thompson garnered All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention honors after shattering her own single-season rebounding record with 370 boards.
In 2013-14, Tartamella piloted the Red Storm to 23 victories and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the program’s fifth-straight trip to the Big Dance. Aside from the team’s NCAA Tournament berth, the campaign featured a number of other highlights, including a win over nationally-ranked Texas A&M at Madison Square Garden, a 13-5 BIG EAST mark, the program’s first appearance in the BIG EAST Tournament Final since 1988 and an 11-game winning streak.
Under Tartamella, St. John’s has made two trips to the NCAA tournament and averaged over 21 wins a year, while his players have garnered an array of individual awards. Following his first year as head coach, Tartamella saw Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith earn First Team All-BIG EAST honors. In addition, Smith earned a spot on the All-Met First Team, while McKenith was named the All-Met Player of the Year and Handford took home the hardware as the MBWA Rookie of the Year. Most notably, however, McKenith and Smith were both taken in that spring’s WNBA Draft and McKenith became the first St. John’s player to sign a WNBA contract, playing the 2013 season with the Washington Mystics. The duo also earned WBCA Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
Following the 2013-14 campaign, Handford found a spot on the All-Met and All-BIG EAST First Teams, while Eugeneia McPherson, Jade Walker and Amber Thompson were also recognized by the conference.
In his first season as head coach, Tartamella guided the Red Storm to its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament berth after finishing the season tied for third in the BIG EAST Conference with an 11-5 record and winning eight of its last 10 regular season games. St. John’s was also the host school for the First and Second Rounds of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Tartamella made his head coaching debut at the WBI Tip-Off Invitational in November 2012. He earned his first-career coaching victory coaching victory, 72-54, against UCF on Nov. 11 at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. Against Rutgers on Jan. 6, 2013, Tartamella killed two birds with one stone, recording his first-career BIG EAST win and his first-career BIG EAST road win, 48-44, over the Scarlet Knights. On March 9, 2013 Tartamella notched his first BIG EAST Tournament victory, 51-45, against Seton Hall.
Regarded as one of the top up-and-coming mentors in women’s basketball, Tartamella’s coaching career was forged over a nine-year tenure assisting St. John’s all-time winningest coach, Kim Barnes Arico . Beginning as a Red Storm graduate assistant in 2002, Tartamella, 36, worked his way through the ranks and served as Barnes Arico’s associate head coach for the four seasons leading up to his elevation to head coach. He has been an integral part of a staff that has been to six NCAA Tournaments, including St. John’s run to its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 in 2012. As a program, St. John’s has been to the NCAA Tournament nine times.
In his career with the Red Storm, Tartamella has played a vital role in helping turn around the St. John’s women’s basketball program and ushering its present success. During Tartamella’s tenure, St. John’s has advanced to 11 BIG EAST Tournaments, three WNITs, and six NCAA Tournaments, including the program’s first Big Dance berth in more than 17 years during the 2005-06 campaign and the team’s first-ever appearance in the Sweet 16 during the 2011-12 season. Tartamella has coached 27 All-BIG EAST and All-Rookie players, 15 All-Met selections and has enjoyed many a national Top 25 ranking during his time at St. John’s, including a program-best No. 13 Associated Press ranking during the 2011-12 campaign.
In 2008-09, Tartamella’s first season as associate head coach, he helped then-freshman Da’Shena Stevens become one of the best rookies in St. John’s history, as she broke the freshman scoring record and became the second player in program history to earn BIG EAST Freshman of the Year honors. Stevens further developed under his tutelage, as she was named a 2010 Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention Selection, an All-BIG EAST First Team honoree and the 2010 MBWA Player of the Year.
During the successful 2011-12 season, Tartamella helped St. John’s to its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance as a program-best No. 3 seed. St. John’s advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals for the first time in program history and enjoyed a 24-10 final record. St. John’s was also the No. 2 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1988.
Tartamella’s scouting and game-planning tactics have proved to be invaluable, as St. John’s has enjoyed numerous victories over Top 25 opponents, including the team’s three historic upset-victories over Notre Dame when the Irish were ranked No. 13 in 2005-06, No. 9 in 2007-08 and No. 4/3 in 2009-10. In 2011-12, he boasted the winning scout in St. John’s win over No. 2 Connecticut on Feb. 18, ending the Huskies’ 99-game home-winning streak. With Tartamella as part of Barnes Arico’s staff, the Red Storm claimed a .560 winning percentage.
Tartamella is also known for his recruiting prowess and has consistently brought in top-rated talent for the Red Storm. Highlighting his role as recruiting coordinator was the 2009-10 class that ESPN.com ranked as 10th best in the nation and No. 1 in the BIG EAST. The class, seniors during the 2012-13 Season, included All-BIG EAST Freshmen Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith, who blossomed into national headliners as they both were selected in the 2013 WNBA draft and signed professional contracts that summer.
Prior to St. John’s, Tartamella spent a year as an assistant men’s basketball coach under the direction of head coach Tom Spina at SUNY Maritime College in Throgs Neck, N.Y. His responsibilities included recruiting and developing long and short-range strategies, administering game plans to players for execution in practice and games, and organizing and implementing pre- and post-season conditioning programs. Tartamella also served as the assistant director of career services at SUNY Maritime College.
After graduating from James Madison University in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in marketing information, he coached alongside Joe Castiglie - the most successful coach in Stony Brook men’s basketball history - at St. Anthony’s High School. After his stint coaching boys’ varsity, Tartamella was hired as the graduate assistant coach for the St. John’s women’s basketball team.
A native of St. James, N.Y., Tartamella earned his master’s degree in marketing management from St. John’s in 2004.
A fiery competitor as a coach and athlete, Tartamella was a two-sport star at Smithtown High School, enjoying success as a basketball and baseball player. His success as a prep standout resulted in numerous scholarship offers before an injury ended his promising playing career and led him to coaching.
A member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), Tartamella was invited to the Nike Villa 7 Coaches Consortium in 2010 and in 2011. The consortium was developed to bring together university athletic directors and the country’s elite assistant basketball coaches in an effort to prepare coaches for the next level. In 2013, Tartamella was invited back to the Nike Villa 7 as a panelist/speaker in Minneapolis, Minn. In June 2013, he was one of 32 women’s college basketball coaches to be involved in the first session of the Center for Coaching Excellence (CCE) at Columbia University.
Tartamella and his wife, Shannon, reside in Long Island, New York. The couple has three children, six-year-old Brady, three-year-old J.J. and one-year-old Riley.