MADISON, WI — A rare but welcomed sight: Two Black females, C. Vivian Stringer for Rutgers and Bobbie Kelsey for Wisconsin, coaching their respective women’s college basketball teams. There have been maybe 10 such coaching encounters thus far. Stringer and Kelsey, before this season concludes, will be involved in a combined nine “chess matches” as they coach against another coach with the same colored skin.
“Coach has done an outstanding job,” said the two-time Hall-of-Famer of Kelsey, now in her fourth overall season at UW, during her post-game comments after UW’s 10-point home loss Sunday to visiting Rutgers. “Her players play hard, and she’s done a great job.”
“Rutgers is a powerhouse. We are trying to get to their level,” added Kelsey of Stringer, now in her 44th overall season and 20th at the Piscataway, New Jersey school.
The MSR afterwards sat down with Stringer, who is the first Black Division I coach (male or female) to reach and surpass 900 wins and the first coach (again male or female) to lead three different schools to Final Fours.
“You would hope we will get to the point where it is not noteworthy. But I think that’s a long time,” said Stringer on the aforementioned rare sightings of Black female head coaches. She has been around long enough to remember when “at one time we had three or four of us at the same time.”
We have a Black president, but Stringer predicts that seeing more Black females as head basketball coaches may increase only on one condition: “When we’re successful. I don’t think it is going to be in my lifetime,” she admitted. “But it’s getting better. I think it’s getting better.”
Stringer, Kelsey and Penn State’s Coquese Washington are the three Black females among the 14 Big Ten head coaches. In their first season in the conference, Rutgers is the only Big Ten school with Blacks at the helm of both basketball programs. Eddie Jordan led his squad last week at Williams Arena — he is the only Black head coach among the conference’s 14 male basketball head coaches.
Why is this a big deal? “We as women, and much less as minority women, find more and more [Black] men coaching women’s basketball,” continued Stringer. “That situation is tough for us. We continue to talk about that.
“There weren’t a lot of opportunities for me. It’s a good thing I started at Cheyney State [in 1971, then Iowa for 12 seasons before being hired at her present school in 1995]. If you think about how many of us even get a chance to [be head coach]…”
Finally, Stringer is back in the Big Ten — she is the second-winningest coach with 173 league wins to her credit. She’s three wins away from the top.
“The Big Ten is no joke,” concluded the Rutgers head coach on the league’s competitiveness from top to bottom. “Hopefully I can be successful, and Bobbie can be successful… She is a very good coach.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.