NCAA Women’s Basketball will make history as the South Carolina Gamecocks 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’s Basketball 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.”
The next challenge in terms of the NCAA tournament is for Arizona and South Carolina to win their upcoming games. Arizona will face off against UConn, and South Carolina will take on Stanford. If both teams win their respective games, they will play each other in the final round.
“I think for us there’s no pressure. No one expects Arizona to win a championship,” Barnes explained to Arizona Desert Swarm. “No one expected Arizona to be in the Elite 8, Sweet 16, Final Four. We don’t have anything to lose. We can play loose, free, because we don’t have the pressure.”
She added, “We’re just going out, we’re having fun right now. We’re playing good basketball. We’re playing for each other, enjoying the ride. We’re going to put it all on the line. We play hard. We’re not soft. We don’t take plays off. We play with our hearts. It may not be pretty, and that’s okay. We’re going to give 100%. Whatever happens at the end of that, whether we win or lose, that’s what’s meant to be.”