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NCAA Women’s Basketball: Final Four Includes Two Teams Led by Black Women for the First Time by Paulina Jayne Isaac

Opinion Black coaches Dawn Staley Adia Barnes making women’s Final Four

SAN ANTONIO — Everyone knows the saying that you need to see it in order to be it. But Dawn Staley would like to suggest an alternate interpretation. Athletics directors who watch the women’s NCAA Tournament Friday night will see history made, the first Final Four to feature two Black women as head coaches. When they see her and Arizona’s Adia Barnes, South Carolina’s Staley wants those athletics directors, the people who can bring about progress and change by who they hire, to know there are dozens of other Black women coaches out there who can have similar success, if only they’re given the opportunity.“I was cheering for (Barnes) to get it done, not for any other reason besides us being represented at the biggest stage of women’s college basketball,” Staley said. “That’s because so many Black coaches out there don’t get the opportunity. When ADs don’t see it, they don’t see it.“And they’re going to see it on the biggest stage Friday night.”Staley’s credentials are second-to-none, a force of nature as a player, an Olympian and now a coach. She is only the second Black woman to win a national championship as a coach, which she did when the Gamecocks won the title in 2017, and will coach the U. S. women at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. But Staley is painfully conscious that some of the doors that were open for her remain sealed shut for so many others. So she has made a point of using the influence that her name and résumé give her to carve out paths for other Black coaches. Without even looking at her phone after Tuesday night’s win over Texas that put South Carolina in the Final Four, Staley knew it was blowing up with messages from coaches she has mentored and tried to elevate. Coaches who see her as both a source of inspiration and answers. But Staley cannot change the world on her own. Which is why Friday night matters so very much.“For this to be happening in 2021, to me, is long overdue,” Staley said. “But we’re proud. We’re happy.”This is the third time in six years that Staley has led South Carolina to the Final Four, and anyone who doubts the Gamecocks can go all the way didn’t watch them dismantle Texas on Tuesday night. The overmatched Longhorns couldn’t manage a single point in the fourth quarter, a first in NCAA women’s tournament history. (Quarters were introduced in the 2015-16 season). This is Barnes’ first trip to the Final Four, but she has been transformative at Arizona. When she returned to her alma mater five years ago, the Wildcats were buried at the bottom of the Pac-12. Now the school is one of the last four teams playing for the first time in its history. And the entire country will have a front-row seat to watch two, strong Black women succeed at the highest level of their sport. If Staley and Barnes can do it, surely athletics directors will realize there must be others out there who can, too. Arizona, a No. 3 seed, plays top-seeded UConn while South Carolina will play Stanfordin a game of No. 1 seeds.
Two Black women are on the verge of NCAA history. Dawn Staley, coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team and Adia Barnes, coach of the Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball team, have coached their teams to the NCAA final four. Their participation is historic as it will be the first time in NCAA history that the final four features two teams with Black women as head coaches. Dawn Staley joined Start Your Day to talk about the historic achievement. Staley is a Hall of Fame player and coach with three Olympic gold medals. “What this moment means is representation matters,” she said. Staley said it’s all about giving Black people opportunities. The basketball legend said defeating the other teams to face off against Barnes would allow them to rewrite the narrative centered around Black coaches. “History hasn’t been on the side of Black coaches. We are in a position to change history,” she said.

NCAA Women’s Basketball will make history as the South CarolinaGamecocks and Arizona Wildcats enter the Final Four tournament. Coach Dawn Staley is leading South Carolina, and coach Adia Barnes is leading Arizona, making it the first time two Black female coaches have ever had teams in the NCAA Women’sBasketball Final Four at the same time. Staley isn’t a stranger to coaching a team in one of the final rounds of March Madness: She won the third Final Four in 2017. Barnes, however, is making her debut this year. 

“There are so many Black coaches out there that don’t get opportunity because when ADs [athletics directors] don’t see it, they don’t see it—and they’re going to see it on the biggest stage of a Friday night, that two Black women are representing two programs in the Final Four, something that has never been done before,” Staley told reporters after defeating Texas, according to CNN.

She continued, “You know, our history here in women’s basketball is so filled with so many Black bodies that for this to be happening in 2021, to me, is long overdue, but we’re proud. We’re happy. I know my phone is probably full of text messages of Black coaches all across the country, just congratulating us on doing that, on being present, being in the moment, being able to take our programs to this place.” To read more go to the line below:

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