A Culture of Winning
Women’s basketball coach Marisa Moseley turns UW players into “the best version of themselves.”
Marisa Moseley wants you to know she wasn’t born to play basketball. Though a basketball scholarship brought her to Boston University, she tried to leave the game behind. After graduation, she worked as a production assistant at ESPN. Today, she’s just as happy offering decorating advice.
“I never wanted [basketball] to be who I was,” Moseley says. “It’s just what I do. When it becomes your only thing, you lose yourself in the process. I have some friends who are like, ‘I don’t know anything else to do. I wouldn’t know what to do with my life if I didn’t do this.’ That will not be my story.”
Coaching the Badger women’s basketball team is a big job: the program hasn’t appeared in a postseason tournament since 2011. It hasn’t gotten past the first round in the NCAA tournament since 1996. Moseley hopes to help the team establish a culture of winning — “building toward banners,” is how she puts it — but she makes it clear that winning isn’t her obsession. Rather, her purpose is to build up successful people. “The reason I got in and why I still do it is I wanted to pay forward the opportunity that my coach had given me,” she says.
After her brief stint at ESPN, Moseley returned to basketball and worked as an assistant coach with jobs at Denver, Minnesota, and Connecticut before landing her first head coaching job at her alma mater. She took over a Terrier program that had been through five losing seasons. She led Boston to three consecutive winning seasons and a first-place conference finish in 2021. That fall, she joined the Badgers as Barry Alvarez’s last hire.
“I like the challenge,” she says. “I was really drawn to the people. I spent the majority of time with [incoming athletic director Chris McIntosh ’04, MS’19]. I appreciated how he had emotional intelligence, and he wasn’t just looking to hire a basketball coach. He was also willing to connect and be a human being first and foremost. That spoke to me, and I felt like this could maybe be a good situation, even though it was going to be hard.”
Moseley’s Badgers have gone 19–40 and finished 11th and then 10th in the conference. But the team is showing improvement. Last season, the team won six Big Ten games, the program’s highest total in a dozen years. Moseley hopes that improvement will inspire a bandwagon of support.
“You have to change the community’s mind,” she says. “You have to get them excited about the people first, and then they will fall in love with the product. I continue to be intentional about connecting with people in the community and having them become fans of these incredible women.”
But Moseley won’t allow herself to be defined by ticket sales or a win-loss record. She says her coaching philosophy is built on five pillars: a winning mind-set, integrity, selflessness, communication, and legacy. “I love to win,” she says. “But I think that we have a really unique opportunity and responsibility as coaches to empower young women to become the best version of themselves. If we do that, when we look back at the end of their four years, I think that is the true measure of success.”
Published in the Fall 2023 issue