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A Highlight of Black Female Basketball Coaches in the NCAA Tournament 

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Black female basketball coaches hold a small percentage in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. It is estimated that only 4% of NCAA Division I women’s basketball coaches were black in 1985. In 2015, that number reached 10%. The number of black women coaching amateur, college, and pro basketball teams is growing despite their vast outnumber.

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Among collegiate women’s basketball coaches, only 5% are black females, according to a 2014 study. A total of 12 black female basketball coaches lead their teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2022, doubling the number from the previous year.

Here’s a highlight of the black female basketball coaches in the NCAA tournament. These black coaches bring out talents in their basketball programs.

The  Black Female Basketball Coaches in NCAA the Tournament

Dawn Staley– South Carolina

Video source: ESPN- YouTube

Having led South Carolina to a perfect regular season and a Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament championship in 2023, Dawn Staley is the leading semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year award.

Staley, a three-time Olympian, was among the faces that introduced women’s basketball to the masses in the United States in the mid-1990s. She played in the ABL and WNBA as well as for Team USA.

Currently ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25, South Carolina is unbeaten this season. With an average scoring margin of 30.3 points per game, Staley leads the team in scoring.

For the third time in four seasons, she hopes to win the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year award. 

As the first black head coach in Division I women’s basketball to achieve three national titles last season, Staley set a record. Only three other coaches in NCAA history have won three or more titles thus, the SEC Coach of the Year hopes to join that exclusive club.

She visited the losing team’s locker room after the Gamecocks’ 72-40 victory over Norfolk State in the opening round of the 2023 women’s NCAA tournament last Friday.

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Niele Ivey– Notre Dame

Video source: ND Loyal- YouTube

In its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, Niele Ivey is leading Notre Dame for the trophy. The Irish improved by 12 victories in 2021–22 under Niele Ivey, who is now in her second season as head coach.

As the first black woman head coach in ACC history, Ivey, the ACC Coach of the Year, made history this season by leading her team to a regular-season conference title.

Ivey has faced several unpleasant setbacks to her rotation, starting with the loss of the sharpshooting guard Dara Mabrey to a knee injury in January.

Similarly, star point guard Olivia Miles’ condition is still unknown after she suffered a knee injury in late February. But Ivey, one of the NCAA’s black female basketball coaches, is upbeat about their prospects.

Kara Lawson– Duke

Duke’s Women’s Basketball-YouTube

As a head coach, Kara Lawson is competing in the NCAA tournament for the first time, unlike other coaches like Dawn Staley. She is the captain of a Duke squad that shocked many this year by taking third place in the ACC regular season after being predicted to place seventh.

The Blue Devils have established a reputation as one of the nation’s premier defensive teams. The team will compete in the competition for the first time since 2018 with this appearance.

Felisha Legette-Jack–Buffalo 

Video source: ESPN- YouTube

The Bulls are making their fourth appearance in the NCAA tournament after capturing the MAC championship for the third time in program history and qualifying for the tournament for the first time since 2019.

Felisha Legette-Jack, who led Buffalo into a mid-major power after taking over a team that had gone nine seasons without a winning record prior to her hiring, has made all four appearances throughout her ten-year career.

The Bulls are optimistic that they can repeat their Sweet 16 run from last year in March.

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Ty Grace– Howard

Video source: Jammin Sports- YouTube

After earning their first MEAC title in 21 years, the Bison will compete in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. Ty Grace has led the University of New Haven to two tournament appearances at the Division II level, but this will be her first as a head coach in the NCAA Division I tournament.

As a black female basketball coach, Grace has also worked as a women’s assistant coach at Army and Seton Hall. By the time she finished her first season as Howard’s head coach in 2020–21, she had been voted the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. She coached the Howard women to a sixth-place finish overall and their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2001 this season.

The Bison, who recorded their first 20-win season since 2012-13, are optimistic to make it past the first round for the first time in program history. 

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Adia Barnes- Arizona

Video source: Pac-12 Networks- YouTube

With her sixth straight 20-win season, Adia Barnes drives the Wildcats to their third consecutive NCAA berth. Arizona last participated in the tournament three times between 2002 and 2005.

Barnes, who carved out a seven-season career in the WNBA and won a championship with the Seattle Storm in 2004, is an example of the first generation of women hoopers who were able to transition from a successful collegiate career to a domestic professional career, despite not receiving as much attention as Staley.

Barnes has ambitions to make another historic championship appearance after becoming the fifth black head coach to play in the women’s national championship game in 2021.

Alex Simmons–Gardner-Webb

Video source: Runnin’ Bulldogs Sports Network-YouTube

The Big South championship on March 5 is where Simmons hopes to achieve his season’s objective. 

In the end, Simmons and her squad not only won the Big South tournament for the first time since 2011 and the regular-season crown for the first time since 2009-2010, but they also managed to do so without losing any conference matches.

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At every level and in every position she has ever occupied on a basketball team, Alex Simmons has excelled.

She won three Tennessee state championships while still in high school. She won two national championships with the Lady Vols. She was a member of a Middle Tennessee State coaching team that won numerous Sun Belt Conference championships as an assistant coach.

Although Simmons took over as head coach at Gardner-Webb in 2018, she has yet to make her own cuts in the net. In the tournament, Simmons and her veteran-led Gardner-Webb squad will look to continue their magical season, which was the best in the Big South’s record.

Yolett McPhee-McCuin–Ole Miss

Video source: Rebel Walk-YouTube

Yolett McPhee-McCuin and her program took another hop this season. She has Ole Miss back in the NCAA tournament after a 14-year break.

The Rebels’ 11 SEC wins were their highest total since 1992. With McPhee-McCuin at the helm, Ole Miss has now put together back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1993-95. 

The Rebels will be making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament, the first time for the program since 2004-05.

Kim McNeill–East Carolina

Video source: WFSB 3- YouTube

McNeill is the first black head coach to win an AAC women’s basketball tournament championship after recording her first winning season since taking over ECU in 2019.

The 23 victories overall and the 11 conference victories by ECU were the most since 2014–15.

Kyra Elzy–Kentucky

Video source: Kentucky Sports Radio– YouTube

Kentucky was on the wrong side of the bubble at the beginning of February. Kentucky had lost 10 of its previous 13 games and was 2-8 in the SEC, and there were questions about whether it would even qualify for the tournament.

In order to win the SEC championship, Elzy was capable of restoring the ship, leading to a 10-game winning streak that featured victories over ranked teams Tennessee, LSU, and South Carolina three times in a row. 

That was Kentucky’s first championship in 40 years. Her progress in Kentucky has been greatly recognized.

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Billi Chambers– Iona

Video source: Iona Gaels- YouTube

After leading the Gaels to conference regular season and tournament championships, Billi Chambers, the MAAC Coach of the Year, will be making her second participation in the NCAA tournament as the head coach of Iona.

For the most conference victories in a season, Iona tied the mark set by the program. Iona has participated in the event twice, both times while Chambers was the Gaels’ head coach.

Joni Taylor–Georgia

Video source: Jordan Hill – YouTube

Joni Taylor is leading the Bulldogs to consecutive tournament participation for the first time since 2014, despite a difficult run-up to the competition.

In contrast to last year, when the Bulldogs participated in the SEC title game, Georgia closed the season losing five of its final eight games, including an early exit from the SEC tournament in the second round.

For the first time since 2012–13 and the first time under Taylor, the Bulldogs will attempt to get past the second round of the tournament.

Amaka Agugua-Hamilton– Missouri State

Video source: Missouri Valley Conference- YouTube

Amaka Agugua-Hamilton led her Lady Bears team to a third consecutive 20-win season, a basketball trip in the MVC tournament championship, and ultimately an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament despite suffering two devastating injury blows to her roster.

Abby Hipp, an All-MVC honourable mention selection, and Jasmine Franklin, the league’s defensive player of the year and a two-time first-team selection, both suffered ruptured ACLs, ending their seasons for Agugua-Hamilton in November and December, respectively.

In both of the Lady Bears’ last two tournament appearances, they advanced to the Sweet 16.

Tomekia Reed–Jackson State

Video Source: Thee Pregame Show- YouTube

By utterly dominating the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Jackson State won its second consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers won all 21 of their games this season against rivals from the conference, securing their second straight SWAC championship and third consecutive regular-season crown.

Jackson State has become a force in just four years thanks to Reed, the 2022 SWAC Coach of the Year. Come tournament time, this Tigers team might surprise everyone. Jackson State lost to Miami by five points and Arkansas by four points in conference play after playing a number of Power 5 opponents closely.

Shereka Wright– UT Arlington 

Video source: WAC Hoops Nation- YouTube

Among teams led by black female basketball coaches, the Mavericks, under Wright’s direction, won their first Sun Belt title and will participate in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. 

Shereka Wright left a lasting impression on the UT Arlington program in just two seasons. Wright, who spent 14 years as an assistant and associate head coach before taking the job as UTA’s head coach, will make her first tournament debut in that capacity. 

Natasha Adair– Delaware

Video source: Delaware Blue Hens- YouTube

With their first CAA championship victory since 2013, the Blue Hens are eligible for the NCAA tournament. Natasha Adair’s first accomplishments as a head coach include the conference championship and a tournament appearance.

Adair and Delaware have made rapid progress, going from a 12-17 record in 2019–20 to a regular-season title and WNIT quarterfinal participation the previous season, to conference winners in 2022.

The previous Blue Hens team that qualified for the tournament reached the Sweet 16 and was captained by future WNBA star Elena Delle Donne.

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Staley has been the Gamecocks’ head coach since 2008, making her the member of the group with the longest tenure among all the black female basketball coaches. The shortest-tenured of the coaches are Ivey, Elzy, and Wright, who were all hired in 2020, according to the Associated Press. 

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A lot of black coaches will come up after these. They’ll bring in diversity and much growth in the game. Read more on how women in sports are shaping the arena.

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Sedi Djentuh
Sedi Djentuh
Hey, Sedi here, a content writer. She's fascinated by the interplay between people, lifestyle, relationships, tech and communication dedicated to empowering and spreading positive messages about humanity. She's an avid reader and a student of personal weekly workouts. When she's not writing, Sedi is busy advocating for plastic-free earth with her local NGO.

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