It’s too early to say it’s a trend, but something is definitely happening in women’s college basketball.
In the past month, 26 schools hired a head coach; 18 were women.
The figures excited UA women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes.
“There needs to be more women coaching,” Barnes said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t hire good men. There needs to be better mentoring and something in place to teach women how to coach.”
Barnes knows the history all too well. So few women are head coaches in the college game.
The percentage of women coaching in Division I women’s basketball was 59.3 percent in the 2017-18 season, according to a study completed by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport.
Two of the biggest names among the new hires played the game at a high level — just like Barnes.
Lindsay Whalen was hired at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota. The University of Virginia hired Tina Thompson. Both were named to the WNBA’s all-time Top 20@20 list; Whalen will coach the Golden Gophers while she continues to play for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.
Thompson was the first draft pick in WNBA history in 1997 out of USC. She won four WNBA titles, went to nine all-star games, won two Olympic gold medals, and is the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. She also played overseas and won more championships there.
Barnes has known Whalen for a long time, and talked to both coaches recently.
Barnes said she “gave (Whalen) advice on hiring — making sure she has the right people around her and that everyone is aligned with her. And I shared some mistakes I made and what I’ve learned.”
Barnes said she and Thompson talked about the pluses and minuses of bringing your own staff to a new job. Thompson is replacing Joanne Boyle, who left UVA to finish adopting her Senegal-born daughter.
Barnes knows that her friends have the makeup to coach.
“They are both smart, highly motivated, and highly competitive. And they are both such great thinkers. They are fit for the job,” Barnes said. “Will it be hard? Yes. But, can they both be successful? Yes.”
Going pro overseas
While her Arizona teammates participated in spring workouts, JaLea Bennett could be found in the gym and on the court. Her training was a little more specialized.
Bennett, a recent UA graduate, is training to play professionally overseas. Salvo Coppa, who was her position coach at UA, is working with her.
“He’s showing her how they play (the game) in Europe,” Barnes said. “The style of play and technical things are different. The 3-point line is further back, traveling is different, and shooting with a FIBA regulation ball.
“(Off the court) I’ve been giving her tips on what to look for in contracts, what not to sign.”
Fatkin to transfer
Sammy Fatkin is transferring to Montana. Per NCAA rules, she will sit out next year and will have three remaining years of eligibility.
Fatkin was a three-star coming out of high school and ranked No. 30 by ESPN when she signed with the Wildcats in 2017. Montana was recruiting her heavily then.
“I want to be more involved on the floor instead of just a guard who only contributes by shooting from the corner,” she said in a release issued by Montana. “My favorite part of the game is distributing the ball and getting everyone involved. I want to offer a team more than I was doing.”
Turning pro in Tampa
Graduate assistant Alexus Atchley got an up-close look at the NFL draft last month. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected her boyfriend, Vita Vea, at No. 12 overall.
Vea, a defensive lineman out of Washington, is the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year.
Atchley attended the draft, which was held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. She watched as Vea, sporting a red velvet jacket custom-made for his 6-foot-4-inch, 347-pound frame, awaited his selection.
“Tampa Bay was first on the clock and ended up trading,” Atchley said. “The Raiders showed interest, then they traded. Right then, his agent said you’ll either be surfing (Tampa Bay) or skiing (Washington, D.C.). I saw the Tampa Bay phone number on his phone and then it was a blur. It was a cool experience.
“He was calm — more than I was. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat. I was anxious, happy, and excited. He says he was nervous and that time went slow. The whole thing was surreal.”
Atchley, who flew with Vea to Tampa Bay the next morning, had to quickly get up to speed on the Buccaneers and their history.
“Something I took away was the great players,” she said. “A Hall of Famer (Warren Sapp) was a D-lineman. They value D-linemen. It’s a great place for (Vea) to shine. Many teams don’t see it; the focus usually isn’t D-line. But, for them, it is. And it’s so awesome.
“I am so excited for the season. I am the No. 1 Bucs fan now. I am so happy for him. He is such a humble, sweet guy who worked for it. He deserves this. I am so proud.”