Before Georgia and South Carolina even take the court on Sunday, the SEC women’s basketball tournament final has already made history.
The matchup between Joni Taylor’s No. 4 seed Georgia and Dawn Staley’s No. 2 seed South Carolina marks the first time two Black head coaches go head to head for the championship title in conference history.
Since being announced SEC Coach of the Year on March 2, Taylor has led the Bulldogs to the conference final for the first time as head coach, ousting Kentucky and upsetting No. 1 Texas A&M in the process. The last time Georgia tried its hand in an SEC championship game was when previous head coach, Andy Landers, led his squad to the finals in 2004.
The conference final falls on Taylor's 42nd birthday, creating another cause for celebration for both her and the program in a year where she guided the Bulldogs to a 20-5 record.
“Extremely happy for the program. ... It's something we obviously are going to enjoy today,” she said after Saturday’s win over the Aggies. “We're not going to act like it's not a big deal, but it is a big deal. It's a big deal for us, our program.”
The Gamecocks’ head coach will be trying for her sixth conference championship with Sunday’s final. Staley, who also serves as the national women’s team coach, has led South Carolina to conference titles five times in her now 13 years with the program.
Following South Carolina’s semifinal win over Tennessee, Staley emphasized the importance of representation of Black women leaders in the finals.
“When two Black coaches are in the finals of the SEC [Tournament], we are mirroring what the rest of the country can look like when you give Black women an opportunity to head some programs,” she said.
Sunday’s historic final will tip off at 2 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina.