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7 Inspiring Women Coaches in College Basketball

March 02, 2023

With impressive track records and NCAA women's basketball championship experiences, these top DI women coaches are leading the way for future growth in coaching leadership.

March Madness is almost upon us, and what better time than Women's History Month to recognize top female coaches in NCAA women's basketball. More than six in 10 NCAA Division I women's basketball head coaches are female. With impressive track records and championship experiences, these top women professionals are leading the way as coaches and leaders.

The 2023 March Madness: Women's NCAA tournament begins on March 15. You can watch each game from the comfort of your home. Use the voice command "NCAA Basketball" on your Contour Voice Remote to enjoy every moment. You'll get access to the NCAA tournament on Contour TV in the Sports Zone app which features the latest news, stats and games.
Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina
Recognized as the highest paid Black college basketball coach in the country, Dawn Staley led the Gamecocks to their second national title in 2022. Since assuming leadership of South Carolina's program in 2008, Staley has also led the team to six SEC regular season championships, six SEC tournament championships, eight Sweet Sixteens and four Final Fours. During her playing days, Staley was a point guard for the University of Virginia, where she earned the title of NCAA's all-time steals leader. She also played for Team USA on three Olympic gold medal-winning teams and coached another team to Olympic gold.
Tara VanDerveer, Stanford University
Spanning more than 35 years, Tara VanDerveer boasts an impressive coaching record with the most career wins in women's basketball, including two national championships with the Stanford Cardinals. Her career achievements have placed her among the elite company of just 10 NCAA Division I coaches, regardless of gender, who have won 1,000 games or more. VanDerveer also earned the distinction of being named AP National Coach of the Year four times. She played college basketball at the State University of New York at Albany and then Indiana University, where she helped her team reach the Final Four of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (AIAW) championship. While at IU, VanDerveer enrolled in Hall of Fame men's basketball coach Bobby Knight's basketball coaching classes, an experienced that has helped guide her through her career.
Kim Mulkey, Louisiana State University
After spending 21 years at Baylor University — a stint that included three national championships — Kim Mulkey took the helm at LSU for the 2021-22 season. That year she was recognized as the AP women's basketball Coach of the Year for leading the greatest turnaround in SEC history by a first-year head coach. Mulkey is one of only one of three coaches to earn the award three times. During her college days at Louisiana Tech, Mulkey was an All-American point guard, winning two national championships as well as the inaugural women's version of the Naismith Award. In 2005, she became the first person in NCAA women's basketball history to win a national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
Adia Barnes, University of Arizona
As head coach of the her alma mater, the Arizona Wildcats, Adia Barnes led the team to its first-ever NCAA Women's Final Four appearance in March of 2021, when they finished as national runner-up. Her impressive coaching abilities did not go unnoticed, as she was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Barnes is also the second winningest coach in the school's history. Her impact can be seen not only in the team's record but in the stands as well. Attendance at McKale Center is at its peak, with the top 11 attended games in school history occurring during her leadership. Before coaching, Barnes played seven seasons in the WNBA and internationally.
Niele Ivey, Notre Dame University
A former All-America point guard at Notre Dame and a five-year WNBA veteran, Niele Ivey served as an assistant coach at Notre Dame under Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw for 12 seasons before taking over as head coach in 2020. Ivey's experience and dedication to the program have been instrumental in the team's success, including all nine of the program's Final Four appearances — two as a player and seven as an assistant coach. Ivey also spent a season as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies, which made her the ninth active female coach in the NBA at the time.
Brenda Frese, University of Maryland
Since 2002, Brenda Frese has been at the helm of the University of Maryland Terrapins. In her first season, she led the team to the ACC championship and was named ACC Coach of the Year before becoming the fifth-youngest coach at age 35 to win a national championship in women's basketball in 2006. She has since led the team to 11 NCAA tournament appearances and seven Sweet 16 appearances. She has also won six regular season conference championships and five conference tournament championships. In addition, Frese, who played college ball at the University of Arizona and the University of Iowa, was named the Naismith Coach of the Year in 2006 and the AP National Coach of the Year in 2015.
Kara Lawson, Duke University
Coach Kara Lawson, a former player in NCAA, WNBA and international pro leagues, in 2020 joined the Duke Blue Devils women's basketball team as head coach , making her the first Black person to hold this position at the school. During her playing career, Lawson was a member of the gold-medal-winning USA women's national basketball team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Before her arrival at Duke, Lawson served as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, becoming the first female in franchise history to hold that position. At the onset of the 2022-2023 season, the Handle Hard Better speech she delivered to her team went viral, receiving more than 600,000 views in seven months.
Make sure to tune into the the Final Four games on ESPN on March 21 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. ET. The national championship will air on ABC on April 2 at 3 p.m. ET.
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