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Women coaches led last five NCAA women’s basketball champions

(Bri Lewerke/Just Women's Sports)

Women lead women to national championships.

With Dawn Staley leading South Carolina to its second national championship in five seasons Sunday, the past five NCAA women’s basketball national champions have all been led by women head coaches.

Staley started the trend in 2017, leading South Carolina to its first national title. Then Muffet McGraw, Kim Mulkey and Tara VanDerveer all followed, winning with Notre Dame, Baylor and Stanford, respectively.

The run by women coaches ended a streak of four straight titles by UConn.

But while Geno Auriemma has led UConn to nine of the 20 NCAA championships in the past two decades, all but one of the other 11 were won by women coaches. Gary Blair is the exception, having won a national title with Texas A&M in 2011.

Since the first NCAA women’s tournament in 1982, just three men have coached teams to titles: Auriemma, Blair and Leon Barmore, who won with Louisiana Tech in 1988.

The first six national championships were all won by women head coaches: Sonja Hogg, Linda Sharp (twice), Marianne Stanley, Jody Conradt and Pat Summitt.

Prior to the passage of Title IX in 1972, more than 90 percent of all women’s college teams were led by women coaches. During the 2020-21 season, the number of women’s basketball head coaches in Division I sat at 64.3 percent, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.

It’s no secret that the path to success in women’s college basketball has been an uphill battle.

This year was the first time that the tournament was allowed to use “March Madness” branding, and that only came after gender inequities were highlighted at last year’s tournament. But despite the odds being seemingly stacked against the growth of women’s basketball – and women’s sports in general – women have continued to thrive, on the court and in the coaching ranks.

In the words of Muffet McGraw: “Let’s keep this trend going!”