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Black Head Coach Kenny Brooks Leading VA Tech’s Women’s Basketball Team To First Ever Final Four Appearance

Essence 3/28/2023 Rayna Reid Rayford

Virginia Tech’s women’s basketball head coach Kenny Brooks, made history with their Elite 8 win over Ohio State, making him just the third Black male coach to lead a team to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

Brooks joins the ranks of Quentin Hillsman and Winthrop “Windy” McGriff who respectively accomplished this feat with Syracuse in 2016 and Cheyney in 1984.

This is the First Final Four appearance for the Virginia Tech’s women’s basketball team, where the Hokies will play the LSU Tigers on Friday.

This is yet another feather in Brooks’ cap after he “became the first Black head coach to win the ACC women’s basketball tournament crown…when his 3-seed Hokies defeated the 4-seed Louisville Cardinals.”

Over the course of this historic season, Brooks has reflected on his journey to becoming the Power 5 level’s first and only Black male head coach, telling ESPN “This honor, I didn't know it until they told me after the game. If you'd asked me about five, 10 years ago, I wouldn't have embraced it as much. Honestly, being a Black head coach in a women's sport, it is tough. It really is…I think that there are coaches out there that are definitely worthy of an opportunity. So for me, I've embraced that role. I've embraced it when people come up to me, other coaches, when they text me, when they DM me.”

Ascending to the role just before the 2016 season, Brooks is aware of his unique position within the sport, especially during the racial reckoning our country experienced after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. He strove to “bring together” the Black and white players on the team, saying “I had to open myself up and I was very vulnerable…They looked at me for a long time as the leader and they don't understand that I had to go through struggles. I've been called bad words. I've been called those words before that they hear that are so disgusting to them. I've been discriminated against. I won a lot of basketball games at James Madison and it took [Virginia Tech athletic director] Whit Babcock to give me a call before I had an opportunity to get to this level.”

“So I've embraced the opportunity now and I'm championing for a lot of my fellow peers. And I think that if I can continue to run a program like this," Brooks shared, adding :I can continue to win and we win on a big stage, I think it can open up doors for a lot of other guys who look like me...I'm good for the game."

All in all, it’s a big year thus far for Black basketball coaches, as Niele Ivey, head coach for Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish, “became the first Black coach to win the conference’s regular-season championship.”

Brooks always tells his team that they need to “stop and smell the roses,” which is especially fitting as they go where no Virginia Tech basketball team has gone before.

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