It is a new era for Wagner College women’s basketball. The team’s first-season head coach Terrell Coburn was named this past April, the program’s first African American head coach. While Coburn is setting a precedent, he isn’t new to the Seahawks, having spent the previous five years as an assistant coach with the team.

“The first thing is the physical preparation,” said Coburn after Wagner opened its season 5–1. “That started in the summertime and they really bought into the conditioning, playing a lot and building cohesion with each other.”

Coburn described himself as a defensive-minded coach, so the players knew they would be going all-in. They talked about preparation, consistency, holding each other accountable and steady improvement.

While Coburn didn’t initially know he was the first African American head coach in program history, he’s pleased to carry that mantle. He’s long had the vision of being a head coach, and just like he asks of his players, he puts in the consistent effort to achieve it.

“I want to be a positive influence and represent leadership,” said Coburn. “What we’ve done in our program is equip each individual with different levels [of leadership] based on their progress and on where they’re at in their lives. The biggest thing with leadership is building relationships, being a positive influence and being of service. I want to be able to instill some of those different tools in our young women. … The biggest level of leadership is building more leaders.”
Coburn has been a vital part of building a winning culture at Wagner. “My time here as an assistant…we didn’t win a lot of games, but we built mental toughness and fortitude,” he said. “Helping them understand that basketball is a bridge to get to your life and you’ll be able to take these experiences and carry over these positive habits into adulthood. That starts with recruiting like-minded individuals that love the game and want to get better.”

In national college basketball news, March Madness just got more festive. The NCAA Division I Council approved an expansion of the Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament from 64 to 68 teams, effective in 2022. The decision is driven by gender equity issues raised at this year’s Tournament, which led to an external review. For this season, the four opening round games will take place on the campuses of teams seeded in the top 16. Starting in 2023, the first four games will be conducted at a neutral site.

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