By Christian Contreras, May 2, 2023
Assistant coach Olivia Luu was named one of the 2023 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Thirty Under 30 honorees March 20.
Luu grew up in Riverbank, California, as the second eldest of five siblings.
“We played basketball, golf, volleyball, soccer and softball,” said Luu. “We grew up in athletics.”
Luu attended Riverbank High School, where she was part of the basketball, volleyball, golf and softball teams. During her time there, she earned multiple “Player of the Game” awards and was named “Player of the Year” for the 2011-2012 varsity basketball season.
After she graduated from Riverbank High School, Luu attended William Jessup University in Rocklin, California. Luu played point guard all four seasons with three as team captain. Her time there was a unique experience, as she got to play basketball alongside her sister Janelle and her best friend Emilee for three seasons.
“I really enjoyed my college experience,” Luu said. “I got to go to school with my sister and my best friend, and we grew up playing basketball since the 5th and 6th grade, so it was really fun being able to play with them. I had really good mentors there that I’m still connected with today.”
When she started out as a point guard, she averaged 7.9 points while shooting 35.2% from the court overall. In her final season at William Jessup, Luu averaged 9.3 points and 3.0 assists per game. In 2019 she helped the Warriors make history as they advanced to the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship for the first time.
Luu originally intended to major in medicine when she enrolled at William Jessup, but changed her mind before her sophomore year after realizing she still had a strong love for sports and basketball.
“I actually went to undergrad for medical school,” Luu said. “I was on the medical school route. But by the time I hit my sophomore year, I changed my major to kinesiology because I knew I wasn’t ready to let sports go, and I just was really passionate. I’ve always been really passionate about sports and basketball.”
Around the time she changed her major, Luu decided to pursue a career as a basketball coach. She said her time coaching travel ball in high school and her experience playing as a point guard gave her an appreciation for coaching and contributed to her decision.
In 2019, Luu went to the WBCA Convention in Tampa, Florida, after she was accepted into its “So You Want To Be A Coach,” program. It was through this program that she met her lifetime mentor, Gonzaga University’s women’s basketball head coach Lisa Fortier.
When Fortier offered Luu a graduate assistant position after they had met, Luu could not refuse because it would help launch her coaching career.
Luu, who spent her entire life in California, knew working at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, would push her out of her comfort zone.
“It was different,” Luu said. “(It was) my first time living out of state, and I believe that personal growth and any type of growth comes when you’re a little uncomfortable. So, you know I was definitely uncomfortable living in a different state. I didn’t know anybody. But I had so much growth out there.”
Despite the difficulties of relocating to a new state, Luu found comfort in the opportunity to network with individuals in the basketball community.
“I met so many amazing people,” Luu said. “Coach Lisa Fortier — she’s one of my lifetime mentors, and still, to this day, she’ll always be one of my mentors that I really look up to and helps me in all aspects of life, not just basketball. So yeah, I’m super grateful for that experience.”
From 2019 to 2021, Luu worked as a graduate assistant. Under her leadership, the Bulldogs went 51-7 overall and 33-2 in West Coast Conference play. In the 2020-2021 season, she also helped them win a WCC Tournament championship.
On top of her work as a graduate assistant, Luu earned a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University, graduating with a 3.90 GPA.
After two years of working as a graduate assistant and earning her degree, Luu was ready to embark on a coaching career.
In 2021, Luu arrived at Cal Poly Pomona after departing from Gonzaga.
“I was really just looking for a job, looking for an experience, looking for someone to give me an opportunity,” Luu said. “And so that’s what I got here at Cal Poly — the opportunity to coach, which is what I wanted to do — and so I was really open to anything that summer really. But yeah, I got the opportunity here, so I took it.”
Having spent most of her life as a player, Luu reflected on how different it is to be a coach.
“It’s like a full circle,” Luu said. “You get to see all the different perspectives being a former student-athlete and now being on the other side as a coach and really understand what the athletes are going through and whatnot. I think it’s important to build those relationships and make sure that you kind of see them as people before players. Kind of like that transformational leadership style.”
Luu was surprised when she received the email saying she was recognized on the WBCA’s Thirty Under 30 list.
“I mean it was cool,” said Luu. “I didn’t think I was going to get it, so I was really surprised and I think it’s just a nice testament to what I’ve been doing and whatnot. I think confidence is something all people struggle with, so I think when you get something like that, it kind of is just a reminder of being on the right path and doing the things you’re supposed to be doing.”
When asked what advice she would give to young female athletes, Luu offered her thoughts.
“I think I would say, ‘Be authentically you and stay true to who you are,’” said Luu. “I think the only two things that really matter in life are who you become as a person and who you impact. Those are the two things that I carry throughout my everyday life and what I’m doing.
Luu recognizes that she was always meant to be in this line of work.
“I think as I’ve gotten a little bit older now, I think I just realized that I’m a connector and my vision in life is to help people and serve those around me without expectations,” Luu said. “To do that through basketball has been the ultimate win in my life.”
Feature image courtesy of Olivia Luu
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