Syracuse’s Quentin Hillsman, the second African-American male to coach in women’s Final Four, grateful to those who paved the way
— 'Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) March 28, 2016
Not since 1984, the third year of the women’s NCAA tournament, has there been a black male at the helm of a Final Four team. Now, 32 years later, Syracuse’s Quentin Hillsman can walk in the footsteps of former Cheyney coach Winthrop “Windy” McGriff.
McGriff took over the Cheyney program in September 1983, a few months after C. Vivian Stringer left to take the head coach position at Iowa. He inherited a talented squad with three returning starters including senior forward Yolanda Laney, senior center Sharon Taylor and senior guard Sandra Giddins. Laney’s daughter, Chicago Sky forward Betnijah, is the goddaughter of Stringer and played for the coach at Rutgers. The mother of Texas senior Imani Boyette, Pam McGhee (along with her twin Pamela), played on that year’s national championship team, Southern California.
The then-independent Cheyney, the only DII team to ever participate in the DI NCAA tournament, lost to Tennessee 80-71 in the semifinals of the Final Four. Last weekend Hillsman’s squad defeated Tennessee 89-67 in the Elite Eight.
“Honestly, to be in the Final Four is just a remarkable thing in itself,” said Hillsman when asked about making history as just the second African-American male to coach in the national semifinals. “I think you look at it in a sense of accomplishment for your team and university. Obviously, it is a great honor to be there and be representing them.”
He took over the program ten years ago and worked steadily to put the Orange on the national stage with three straight NCAA appearances and seven straight winning seasons. The team reached the Final Four for the first time this year.
“For our program and university, it means a lot to be in the Final Four and have your name up there in that ring,” said Hillsman. “It is amazing and an amazing feat. Personally, it is something you always think about when you’re a player or a coach, being in the Final Four. It is very exciting and we have a great opportunity to win a national championship.”
Reflecting on his accomplishments, he gave credit to black coaches that came before him, helping to pave the way for his success.
“When you look back, you think of C. Vivian Stringer, coach [John] Chaney. For me, I think of Ed Baldwin, who was the coach at Charlotte. He was a great mentor. You look at Carolyn Peck, who won a championship, Dawn Staley, even. There are a lot of coaches who are doing great things at a high level. I think it is only going to continue.”
He joins McGriff, Stringer, Peck, Staley and Pokey Chatman as the only African-American coaches to take a team to the Final Four. Only Peck has won a championship.
On Sunday, in the second semifinal of the day, No. 4 seed Syracuse faces seventh-seeded Washington Huskies. The Orange defeated the Huskies, 66-62, at the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas in late November. Syracuse never trailed in the game with senior guard Brianna Butler contributing a game-high 20 points.