It was one-and-done for local Division I teams in post-season play. Seton Hall lost to Toledo 65–71 in the first round of the WNIT. It was also first-round losses for the three teams in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. Rutgers lost to Buffalo 71–82, Princeton lost to Kentucky 77–82 and Fordham was defeated by Syracuse 49–70.
The women’s Tournament has had some minor upsets, but Mississippi State, Louisville, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford and Baylor all advance to the Sweet 16.
A topic of note in the Tournament is how many head coaches of color there are. In the 2018 Racial and Gender Report Card: College Sport, published by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, it was reported that African-American student-athletes make up 43 percent of the total in women’s basketball, but only 11.9 percent of the head coaches are African-American women.
That makes DeLisha Milton-Jones, head coach at Pepperdine University, determined to show what she can do, knowing the impact can be far-reaching. In just her second year as a head coach, Milton-Jones, a two-time WNBA Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, has taken her team into post-season. The Waves are in the Sweet 16 of the WNIT.
“It definitely hasn’t been me by myself,” said Milton-Jones of her team’s success. “I’ve been leaning on my spirituality heavily. There are so many different individuals that I have to tap into in a short period of time in order for us to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”
From the day she became head coach, Milton-Jones has reintroduced her players to the game of basketball so that they could fall in love with their craft again. She let the system develop over time and slowly fed them information while giving each player attention and precise direction on how to develop their skill sets.
“I started building from there and eventually, before you knew it, we had something,” she said. “It’s a testament to everyone allowing themselves to be a sponge and to soak up everything. That even included me. I had to show them that ‘I’m here with you and we’re going to grow together.’”
Milton-Jones said she is honored to be a woman of color who is a head coach. “I am happy for the culture I represent, but I am not satisfied because there definitely should be more of us,” she said. “These young women need tangible examples.”
She added, “We can be sounding boards so they can walk on the path of success and be well equipped to handle everything that’s going to come their way in this world. The narrative on how people view women of color in positions of stature and power needs to change. We can do that by empowering and inspiring the next generation.”