Who’s got next, sideline edition
When the 2019 NCAA tournament bracket was released, the Oregon women’s basketball team had to be pleased with its placement in the Portland region, which meant that the Ducks would stay in Oregon for up to four games. To understand how advantageous that is, just look at conference rival UCLA, which would fly over 8,000 miles before its third game—a loss to UConn in the Sweet Sixteen—even tipped off.
But the Ducks were thrilled when they finally got to pack their bags, because it meant that the program had secured its first-ever trip to the Final Four. As head coach Kelly Graves put it earlier this month, “We didn’t want to be an Elite Eight program; we wanted to be a Final Four program.”
Oregon lost to top-seeded Baylor in the national semifinals, missing out on the program’s first appearance in the national championship game. But Graves appreciated the significance of making it to the sport’s final weekend: “Now we don’t have to say ‘next year.’”
Graves—the self-described “new kid on the block” in Tampa — is the latest in a recent wave of women’s basketball coaches making their Final Four head coaching debuts, including Dawn Staley in 2015, Mike Neighbors and Quentin Hillsman in 2016, and Vic Schaefer in 2017. Which coach will be next? Here are a few top contenders, plus some dark horses to keep an eye on over the next several seasons. (Coaches are listed in alphabetical order.)