The NCAA women's tournament will make history next month as two Black women lead teams into the Final Four for the first time.
Dawn Staley's South Carolina Gamecocks will enter the Final Four for the third time, while the Arizona Wildcats and head coach Adia Barnes will make their debut appearance.
After South Carolina prevailed over the Texas Longhorns Tuesday, securing their spot to compete for the championship, Staley, 50, said that she was "super proud of Adia" and happy to see a long overdue piece of women's basketball history made, CNN reported.
"There are so many Black coaches out there that don't get opportunity because when ADs [Athletics Directors] don't see it, they don't see it — and they're going to see it on the biggest stage of a Friday night, that two Black women are representing two programs in the Final Four, something that has never been done before," she said, according to CNN.
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She added, "You know, our history here in women's basketball is so filled with so many Black bodies that for this to be happening in 2021, to me, is long overdue, but we're proud. We're happy."
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Barnes said that she wasn't initially aware that her team's Final Four appearance would be history-making — and she was grateful to share the honor with Staley.
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"I think representation is extremely important," she said, per The Arizona Republic. The last few days I've found out a lot. When you're so involved at the moment you don't know about a lot of that stuff. The media brings it to your attention."
"It's incredible to be representing Black female coaches on the biggest stage. This is the biggest stage for women's basketball so it's an honor," she continued. "To be behind someone like Dawn Staley. Dawn Staley is incredible. She's a proven winner who has done amazing things for women's basketball. To even be in the conversation with someone that great, it's an honor."
Both Staley and Barnes, 44, are former WNBA players. Their simultaneous Final Four appearances will also make them the only former WNBA players to lead teams into the top four spots as head coaches, according to CNN.
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