WNBA | JWS
29 Aug 1997: Coach Nancy Darsch of the New York Liberty talks to reporters before the championship game against the Houston Comets at The Summit in Houston, Texas. The Comets won the game, 65-51. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport

Nancy Darsch, the gold winning assistant coach for the USA Women’s Olympic Basketball team in both the 1984 (Los Angeles) and 1996 (Atlanta) Olympic games, died last Monday after battling Parkinson’s disease. She was 68.

Darsch’s influence on the game extended to all levels of women’s basketball. Her coaching career began at Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts before eventually progressing to Ohio State University in 1985, where she led the Buckeyes to four Big Ten Conference Championships and seven NCAA tournament appearances.

Former Buckeyes player and current Minnesota Lynx coach Katie Smith took to Twitter to remember her former coach and mentor.

In 1997, Darsch started her professional coaching career during the WNBA’s inaugural season with the New York Liberty. She had the privilege of coaching the Liberty in the first-ever WNBA game against the Los Angeles Sparks, where she earned her first professional victory with a final score of 67-57.

As head coach, she led the team to a 17-11 season, as the team advanced to the WNBA Finals, where they fell to the Houston Comets. In her two seasons with New York, Darsch compiled a 36-24 record.

In a statement released to WNBA.com, the New York Liberty thanked Darsch for the contributions she made to the team:

“We are grateful for Nancy’s leadership as a pioneer of this game. Her contributions to the advancement of both collegiate and professional women’s basketball, and her passion for the game will forever be felt.”

Teresa Weatherspoon, a member of that 1997 Liberty squad and a 2010 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, was one of many former players who took to social media to commemorate her experience under Coach Darsch:

Weatherspoon went on to start her own legacy of coaching women’s basketball, serving as the head basketball coach for the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters for five years.

After her first two seasons with New York, Darsch took over as head coach for the Washington Mystics. At the end of two seasons, she became an advance scout for the team, and from 2003-2005, seasons she served as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx. Darsch joined the Seattle Storm as an assistant coach in 2008, winning a WNBA title with the team in 2010.

In “Remembering Nancy Darsch” a video created by WNBA.com documenting Darsch’s experiences as a coach, she shares a few insightful words describing her coaching style.

“The players, to me, need to be at the forefront. I’m just the architect. Let people come and enjoy the building and enjoy the team, and I’m in the backseat.”

Darsch’s humility underscores her importance to the league and the players she coached. In four seasons as WNBA head coach, she compiled a 57-57 record, but her legacy goes well beyond those numbers.

Darsch is one of many unsung heroes who helped carry women’s basketball to where it is today. And it’s this legacy that will live on, reminding us that not all heroes wear capes, but some carry clipboards.