South Carolina coach Dawn Staley told media Tuesday night after the Gamecocks’ 62-34 win over Texas in the Elite Eight that she is “super proud” of Arizona coach Adia Barnes coaching the Wildcats to their first Final Four.
“I’m super proud of Adia. I wanted that to happen,” said Staley, who is in her fifth Final Four with South Carolina. “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.”
“Us” to Staley is black coaches coaching in the Final Four. For the first time, two black women are head coaches of teams to reach college basketball’s grandest stage.
“There are so many black coaches out there that don’t get opportunity because, when ADs (athletic directors) don’t see it, they don’t see it,” Staley said. “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.”
South Carolina will play Stanford in one Final Four game Friday at 4:30 p.m. at San Antonio and Arizona will go against UConn in the other at 6:30.
“Our history here in women’s basketball is so filled with so many back bodies that for this to be happening in 2021, to me, is long overdue,” Staley continued. “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.”
Staley lauded Barnes’ coaching ability saying “she’s not just a suit.”
“I know Adia utilizes all of her basketball knowledge as a player, and she’s been a coach long enough that she’s not just a suit,” said Staley, who also shares the distinction with Barnes as being the first two former WNBA players to coach in the Final Four.
“It’s always going to be part player in us, and that’s why our players, we are so relatable to them. We understand it because it’s coming from a place where we’ve done that. We’re trying to help you get to a place where we can have longevity in our league.”
Staley urged athletic directors to bring in black women to interview for coaching jobs.
“If you don’t hire them, let them know why,” she said. “Let them know why so we can continue to work on just perfecting what our craft and our profession is because there are a lot of people out there that aren’t getting the opportunities.
“They should because this is exactly what can happen when you give a black woman an opportunity.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.