Caught off-guard by a basketball anomaly

An all-Black coaching staff is a rarity in the world of college women’s hoops

Because I was working in the Williams Arena media room on notes for my second column published weekly AnotherViewsquareon this same page, I didn’t do my due diligence before a recent U of M women’s basketball game.

If I had, it wouldn’t have been a surprise, albeit a refreshing one, when I arrived court-side just before tip-off for the November 18 Gophers-Georgetown late afternoon contest. Other than an HBCU, Georgetown perhaps is the first team to have an all-Black coaching staff in this century.

The head coach, associate head coach, two assistant coaches, director and assistant director of operations, graduate assistant coach and the four student managers all looked like this columnist — all Black. Probably the only person who noticed it last Friday was me.

After the contest, I asked Georgetown Head Coach Natasha Adair nothing about her team’s eight-point defeat to host Minnesota. Instead I asked if she was intentional in assembling such a diverse staff, a rare sight in Division I big-time women’s hoops.

Natasha Adair
Natasha Adair (Sophia Hantzes/MSR News)

“It was not something I sought out to do,” she admitted. “I did make a staff change after I got here three years ago.”

Georgetown became her second head coaching job when she was hired in April 2014 as the school’s ninth women’s basketball head coach in history after two years in a similar position at the College of Charleston. There she led the school to its first consecutive postseason berths in program history.

But more importantly Adair has paid her coaching dues since 1998, first as a Georgetown assistant for six seasons (1998-2004), then eight seasons as an assistant at Wake Forest (2004-12). Her Georgetown Hoya coaches also have extensive coaching experience: Associate Head Coach James Howard (in coaching since 1991), Melba Chambers (since 2000), and Sarah Jenkins (10-plus years’ experience).

“Two of my coaches [Chambers and Jenkins, both former Hoya players] I coached when I was an assistant,” noted Adair. “My associate head coach [Howard] is from D.C. It’s more about the variety of the staff than just the diversity or lack of it.

“I didn’t set out to make an all-Black staff, but it worked out,” said the head coach who led Georgetown last season to its first post-season berth since 2011-12.

When former men’s coach John Thompson arrived at Georgetown in 1972, he unabashedly transformed the school from sad-sack to a 1984 national championship as well as introduced a new source of Black pride — a Black head coach on the sidelines with a virtually all-Black team. That same pride was revived last week by Adair’s women — all but one player is Black — and her coaching staff. Adair is one of three Black women who will coach against Minnesota in Minnesota this season.

Unfortunately there aren’t that many Black female coaches. “No, there’s not,” confirmed Adair, adding when asked if this fact one day will become just a memory of the past, “I don’t know. I hope to see that, because I want to give our student-athletes more examples of us African American women in power.

“This is year 20 as a head coach or an assistant. I know there are so many of my former players who are now coaching, and if I can help bring them up in the coaching ranks, we will have that day when we will see African American head coaches, but [also] coaches who are doing it the right way and with integrity,” she predicted.

“It’s about teaching [her players] every day it’s about life.”


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