For the third time under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina has reached the Final Four. For the first time, there will be another Black coach arriving alongside Staley.
Between Staley and Arizona head coach Adia Barnes, the 2021 Women's Final Four will feature two Black coaches, a first in NCAA history. Barnes' Arizona team made the Final Four for the first time in program history on Monday with a win over Indiana.
It's a big step in an area where Black female representation has always lagged relative to its players, and one that Staley hopes can lead to more of the same in the future. When asked about the meaning of the achievement after South Carolina's suffocating win over Texas, Staley didn't hold back:
I'm super proud of Adia. I wanted that to happen. I was cheering for her to get it done. It was not for any other reason besides us being represented at the biggest stage of women's college basketball.
And that's because there are so many Black coaches out there that don't get opportunity because, when ADs 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.
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.
This isn't the first time Staley has made history this season. Alongside Georgia's Joni Taylor, she also became part of the first pair of Black female head coaches to meet in a Power Five tournament championship, per the Associated Press.
It's not a surprise that came to pass in the SEC, though. Half the conference has Black female coaches helming its women's basketball programs, with more than the rest of the Power Five combined.
Staley thinks that's important:
Representation matters. It's nothing against anybody else that lost to us. But when you see two Black women representing in this way, I hope the decision makers who are — because there are a lot of jobs out there that you give Black women an opportunity. Not just give them the job. Bring them in. Interview them. If you don't hire them, let them know why. Let them know why so we can continue to work on and just perfecting what our craft and our profession because there are a lot of people out there that aren't getting the opportunities that they should because this is exactly what can happen when you give a Black woman an opportunity.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want people to start bashing me on social media about just hire the most qualified coach. If it was that easy, if it was that easy, there would be more Black head coaches in our game.
South Carolina is scheduled to face Stanford on Friday, while Arizona will face UConn.
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