Moving The Needle: Dawn Staley and Adia Barnes Make History In The Women’s Final Four

This year’s March Madness might have exposed gaps in gender equality in college sports, but for two Black women, the 2021 NCAA Women’s Tournament will always represent a moment when history was made.

For the first time ever, two Black women will be head coaches in the same Final Four.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will be appearing in her third Final Four, winning the title back in 2017, while Adia Barnes and her Arizona team will make their first debut appearance.

FINAL FOUR SHOWDOWN: The Fight For Equality 

Staley is no stranger to issues of social importance and she’s certainly familiar with making history on the court as a player and now, coach.

READ MORE: Dawn Staley & Joni Taylor Make History In SEC Women’s Basketball Title Game

March Madness is what I like to call the pinnacle of college basketball, where 64 teams, full of the next generation of WNBA and NBA players, who battle it out in a single-game elimination tournament over two weeks to crown the best team. “March Madness” as it’s dubbed is known for big moments, upsets, great action, great stories and in the end, one team’s “One Shining Moment.”

The aforementioned Staley had a lot to say following her team’s (62-34) defensive strangulation of the Texas Longhorns where they blocked 14 shots and held them scoreless for the entire 4th quarter (first time a team hasn’t scored in a quarter in NCAA Tourney history).

Staley was happy for her team advancing but stated she was rooting for Barnes and her Arizona team to also advance because she was supporting diversity at its finest. Two leaders of color clashing at the height of the profession, being represented on college hoops’ grandest stage. 

She continued to mention the fact that there are so many Black coaches out there that don’t get the opportunity because ADs, don’t see it, or I’ll take it a little further, don’t wanna see it…”IT” being the obvious qualifications that so many overlooked Black coaching candidates possess. 

But on Friday night in “The Alamo,” they’re gonna see it front and center, as two Black women will be smashing another glass ceiling and breaking new ground. his is far overdue, considering the amount of Blacks that make up the history of women’s basketball.

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Both Staley and Barnes are former WNBA players, the latter winning a title with the Seattle Storm in 2004. Arizona was also impressive in their Elite 8 victory as they beat a good and rugged Indiana team (66-53). This also means Staley and Barnes are the only former WNBA players to have led teams to the Final Four as head coaches.

“Barnes utilizes all of her basketball knowledge as a player and she’s been a coach long enough that she just isn’t a suit, Staley said.”

“Representation matters, and it’s nothing against anyone we beat, but when you see two Black women representing in this way, I hope the decision-makers take notice, because there are a lot of jobs out there that you give Black women an opportunity, and not just a job.”

She also mentioned if they actually hired the most qualified candidate, there would be a lot more Black head coaches in our game. 

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In fact earlier this month, the NCAA generated backlash for clear and obvious discrepancies between the amenities provided to the men’s and women’s teams participating in “March Madness” games.

South Carolina will face Stanford and Arizona will square off against UConn on Friday night. The winners will advance to the title game on Easter Sunday.

History will be made as soon as the ball is tipped. There’s an even bigger prize in the NCAA Championship awaiting if their teams can win; a chance to capture immortality while advancing the cause of Black coaches across the globe and inspiring young women to dream big as leaders — among men, among giants, among anyone.

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