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South Carolina’s Dawn Staley on historic Final Four: ‘Representation matters’

The NCAA Women’s Final Four will feature two Black female coaches for the first time in history.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley and Arizona’s Adia Barnes both led their teams to the national semifinals and are only two wins away from winning the championship. The coaches are also the only two former WNBA players to have led schools to a Final Four.

Staley played for the Charlotte Sting and Houston Comets from 1999 to 2006. Barnes was on the Sacramento Monarchs, Minnesota Lynx, Cleveland Rockers and Seattle Storm from 1998 to 2004.

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Staley, whose Gamecocks beat Texas to get to the Final Four, said having two Black women on the biggest stage will send a message to athletic directors around the country. She added she was “proud” of Barnes for getting her Wildcats this far.

“I was cheering for her to get it done. Not for any other reason besides us being represented at the biggest stage. Two black women representing two programs in the Final Four, something that has never been done before,” Staley said, via ESPN.

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“Our history here in women’s basketball is filled with so many Black bodies, for this to be happening in 2021, to me, is long overdue. We’re proud, we’re happy. I know my phone is probably full of text messages of Black coaches all across the country just congratulating us on doing it, on being present, being in the moment, being able to take our programs to this place.”

Staley added, “Representation matters.”

“You give Black women an opportunity. Bring them in, interview them. If you don’t hire them, let them know why. So we can continue to work on perfecting our craft and our profession. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t getting the opportunities they should. Because this is exactly what can happen when you give a Black woman an opportunity.”

The NCAA Women’s Final Four will begin Friday night.

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South Carolina will take on Stanford at 6 p.m. ET. Arizona will look to knock off UConn at 9:30 p.m. ET. Both games are on ESPN.

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