This offseason two of the most prominent programs in women’s college basketball hired their first-ever Black head coaches, with Kara Lawson landing at Duke, and Niele Ivey returning to Notre Dame. Their hirings were significant because in a sport made up predominantly of young Black women — the NCAA estimates 45% of Division I women’s basketball players are Black — only 17% of coaches are Black women. In the Power Five conferences, just 12% of coaches are Black women.
What’s more, Lawson and Ivey step into their roles during a time of major civil unrest, as the country reels from the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and numerous other Black men and women killed at the hands of police officers. And in this moment of racial reckoning, when athletes and coaches are speaking out and refusing to be defined solely by their sport, Lawson and Ivey know it’s crucial their voices be heard, too.
For Ivey, who returned to Notre Dame after a year with the Memphis Grizzlies, the conversations around police brutality land a little harder, because she has an 18-year-old son. Jaden Ivey is a freshman basketball player at Purdue.
“I think we’re in a time where it’s not only acceptable, it’s necessary,” Ivey says. “As an assistant I wouldn’t have said as much but we cannot be silent anymore. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it pushed all this dialogue to the forefront … and I think speaking out about what’s right and what’s wrong, that should not be a divisive opinion.”