Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith to retire after 40 years

Ivy League Women's Basketball Tournament - Semifinals
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BOSTON – Sure, there are the Ivy League-record 630 victories and the 11 conference championships and the six trips to the NCAAs – including the one that produced the biggest upset in the tournament’s history.

That’s not what Kathy Delaney-Smith’s players will remember from her 40 years as Harvard’s women’s basketball coach.

“Kathy’s had a long history of fighting for equity in sports, and fighting for opportunities for girls and women,” said Maura Healey, who played for Delaney-Smith and is now the Massachusetts Attorney General.

“That started back when she was a high school coach and it continued through her career at Harvard,” Healey said. “For those of us who played for her, we really appreciated and saw first-hand her commitment to equality.”

The winningest basketball coach in Ivy League history – men or women – Delaney-Smith will retire at the end of this season. That could come as soon as this Friday, when the fourth-seeded Crimson meet No. 1 Princeton in the conference tournament semifinals.

She will leave behind not just an unmatched resume but also a legacy of fighting for gender equity that began when Title IX was in its early stages and women’s teams had to fight for practice time, locker room access and jerseys with their names on them – just like the men had.

“If nothing else, I’ve brought awareness, and most importantly I’ve empowered women,” Delaney-Smith said this week. “On the court, it was a classroom. If you learn how to be disciplined, how to be selfless, and how to be tough, that helps you win basketball games, but it also helps you in life.”

The first girl in Massachusetts high school history to score more than 1,000 points, Delaney-Smith’s first coaching job was at Westwood High School, where she went 0-11 in her first season. A couple of years later, the team began a 100-game winning streak, and her players were calling her the “Wizard of Westwood,” a title borrowed from UCLA coach John Wooden (whose longest winning streak was a mere 88 games).

Along with the winning came a campaign for parity with the men’s team, using Title IX to argue for equal access to the locker rooms and practice time, and games at night, when parents and recruiters could watch.

Harvard noticed both the winning and the fight for gender equity, hiring Delaney-Smith in 1982. Since then, she has compiled a 630-433 (367-166 Ivy League); both win totals are the most in conference history.

The Crimson have also hung 11 Ivy League championship banners in a gym that had been barren. They have posted 12 20-win seasons and finished above .500 in 31 of the last 32 years.

“I’m honored I had an opportunity to watch it,” said Harvard men’s coach Tommy Amaker, who arrived on campus in 2007.

“We had no banners, and they had a zillion. We were very hopeful we would live up to the standard the women’s basketball program has set,” he said. “I was proud to learn from her and be a colleague.”

Under Delaney-Smith, the Crimson women also went to the NCAA tournament six times.

But one trip stands out.

In 1998, Harvard beat top-seeded Stanford in the opening round – at the time, the only No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the history of the men’s or women’s tournament. (Maryland-Baltimore County beat Virginia in the men’s tournament in 2018.)

“Yes, I am about wins. Yes, I am about every Ivy League title. I am about my Stanford game,” Delaney-Smith said. “If we’re an underdog and we upset someone, that’s a big win for me.”

But the true value of the victory was what it taught her players.

“Anything can happen,” said the 66-year-old coach, who added there was only one game in her career she felt they couldn’t win: against North Carolina and future Olympic track star Marion Jones in the first round of the 1997 NCAA tournament.

“I mostly believe there is a way. I think I’m able to convey that belief to the athletes I coach — most of the time, not always,” she said. “It happened at Stanford, and I believe that stuck with them throughout their lives.”

Allison Feaster, a three-time Ivy League player of the year, said she arrived at Harvard largely unaware of Title IX. The 1972 federal civil rights law that banned gender discrimination in education has led to the proliferation of women’s sports opportunities, thanks to Delaney-Smith and others pressing the cause.

“We’re benefiting from the pioneers that came before us,” said Feaster, who is now the director of player development for the Boston Celtics. “It’s been super-impactful, her fight, so we could have opportunities like the one I have now.”

And the work continues.

Healey is running for governor. Feaster, who is leading the Celtics’ sports justice initiative, noted current struggles for gender equity in the NCAA, WNBA, and U.S. women’s national soccer team.

“They’re fighting for rights and just to be recognized as heroes, as leaders, as worthy sports figures,” Feaster said.

“People like Kathy – women like Kathy – not only did she and others light the flame, she will leave a lot of us empowered and emboldened to continue,” she said. “She definitely left the sports world and the game in a better place, but also empowered a generation of women to continue the fight.”

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.