Meet the Black women’s college basketball head coaches who are changing the game. This month SLAM and the BCA are celebrating the Black head coaches in women’s college basketball making major impacts at their respective schools. You can read part 1 of this series here.
Katrina Merriweather, Memphis
Katrina Merriweather has been a culture changer at Memphis. In her first year, she led the Tigers to their second 15-plus win season in team history and their first since 2015-2016. The following season also saw the Tigers’ find success and get off to an elite start, going 6-1. Merriweather was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame that same year.
While Meriwether brought winning to Memphis, winning isn’t new to Merriweather. Before Memphis Merriweather was the coach at Wright State, where she led the Raiders to two Horizon League championships and the school’s only back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2019 and 2021. Merriweather graduated from the University of Cincinnati where she began her coaching career as a graduate assistant.
Ed Davis Jr, Morgan State
Davis began his tenure at Morgan State as the interim head coach before earning the full-time job. Davis made an instant impact on the program, leading the team to a winning record in his first season as head coach. Before coaching at Morgan State, Davis spent many years as the head coach at Delaware State, where he is the program’s all-time winningest coach. His tenure at Delaware State was highlighted by a 2007 NCAA tournament appearance and a stretch from 2003-2005 in which he led the team to a school-record 23 straight home wins. Outside of coaching, Davis played basketball at West Virginia state where he earned his bachelor’s degree before earning a master’s in education from Howard University. Davis was inducted into the West Virginia State Athletics Hall of Fame in October of 2008.
Lauren Sumski, Lipscomb
When Sumski joined the Lipscomb Bisons in the spring of 2019 she was not only one of the youngest Head Coaches in the country, at 27, but was also the first-ever female to lead the program since it turned Division I. Sumski’s impact was immediate as she spearheaded a 13 game turnaround from the previous season, improving their record from 5-21 to 18-9. This year the Bison are having an extremely solid season winning 20+ games. Sumski was a distinguished player in her own right, coming out of high school she was the 28th-ranked player nationally, committing to Tennessee. While her time at Tennessee only lasted one year, she was awarded to the SEC All-Academic team before transferring to Rhodes College. During her playing career at Rhodes College, Sumski was a two-time WBCA All-American, a National Player of the year finalist, a SAA Player of the Year, a two-time SAA Tournament MVP, and an academic honor roll member. Her time at Rhodes was highlighted by her Senior year in which she averaged 25.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Tarrell Robinson, North Carolina A&T
Tarrell Robinson is an Aggie for life. Robinson not only currently coaches for North Carolina A&T, but also played college basketball for the men’s program. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at A&T, and earned his B.A. degree in psychology in 2001 from A&T. During Robinson’s 11-year tenure the Aggies have had five 20-win seasons and have finished lower than third place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference only twice. Additionally, the Aggies have made six postseason appearances—three NCAA tournaments and three WNITs. In 2013-14, the Aggies made history by becoming the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to win consecutive games in the preseason WNIT. Last year, Robison set the program record as the all-time winningest coach in North Carolina A&T history, something he reached with a 68-49 win against South Carolina State.
Ashley Langford, Stony Brook
Ashley Langford took her talents playing point guard for Tulane 15 years ago to the head coaching position for Stonybrook. Before her arrival with the Seawolves in 2021, she helped lead the James Madison Dukes to three Colonial Athletic Association regular season titles as their associate head coach. Her quick adaptation to this new role shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as this season Langford has led the Seawolves to an 18-13 record with an outstanding 11-3 record at home.
Recruiting seems to be her bread and butter as well. The former James Madison associate head coach already has a history of bringing in a former 2020 WNBA draft pick, one Player of the Year and two Rookies of the Year.
Laura Harper, Towson
Towson has championship DNA imprinted in their women’s basketball program for as long their head coach Laura Harper decides to stay. Harper is a former forward/center that suited up for the University of Maryland Terrapins from 2006-2008, winning the tournament in her first season with the team. Upon graduating in 2008, she got drafted by the Sacramento Monarchs in that year’s WNBA Draft.
Her coaching journey began as an assistant coach at American University in 2013, and then as head coach at Montverde Academy. A year later, Harper took her expertise to Coppin State as a head coach for the first time on the college scene, where she completely flipped the program around after her first season there, going from a 2-13 record to 15-13. Now that she’s at Towson, the Tigers have a 21-11 record in the Colonial Athletic conference this season.
Toyelle Wilson, SMU
With an overall head coaching record of 69-57, Toyelle Wilson is still on a quest to deliver an NCAA championship to SMU as the school’s first Black female head coach. Before previously becoming an assistant coach for the prestigious and often competitive Baylor and Michigan in 2013, she was a head coach at Prairie A&M from 2010-2013. Before getting the head coaching position there, she served as an assistant for four years.
This year, Wilson has the Mustangs holding onto a 16-12 record in the American Athletic conference and a 12-2 record at home. The best is yet to come from the former guard.
Brittany Young, Austin Peay
Brittany Young is only the 12th head coach to be appointed in Austin Peay’s program history. Young wasted no time making her presence known with the Governors: in just her first season there, the team accumulated a 20-13 record, making her the second coach to have a 20-win season in their debut. She then became the only coach to lead the program to their first postseason victory in the Women’s Basketball Invitational in March 2022.
Young’s resume includes coaching at Daytona State College, where she yet again shined while also taking on the responsibilities of academic coordinator, program’s recruiting coordinator, strength and conditioning liaison, director of player development, and director of operations. In her time with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, she played a vital role in recruiting KN’isha Godfrey, who was a four-star recruit in high school. Fast forward to this year, and Young is now at the forefront of Austin Peay’s 17-12 record overall record and a 11-6 record at home.
Jada Pierce, Niagara
Pierce’s reputation speaks for itself. Last year, the Purple Eagles had their best season under her leadership, securing a record of 15-15, and now, the team has improved to an overall record of 18-12. What’s more impressive is their 16-4 record in the conference.
Photos via Getty Images