Marian Washington: An athlete & coach to know

Marian Washington is more than a longtime coach of Kansas women’s basketball.

Marian Washington: An athlete & coach to know

Marian Washington is not just a longtime coach of Kansas women’s basketball (31 years). She built the University of Kansas women’s athletic program after Title IX, played for the United States women’s basketball team in the early 1970s, and more.

As Kansas head coach, Washington compiled a 560–363 (.607) record, from 1973 to 2004, and won six Big 8 championships as well as the first Big 12 championship.

As the school's athletic director for women’s sports, she coached basketball and started the women’s track and field program. At one point, her locker room was the women’s bathroom, but she fought for equipment, space, and other resources and initiated scholarships for women athletes at the school.

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Washington grew up in Pennsylvania, played at West Chester State College under Carol Eckman, who organized the first women’s basketball national championship (under Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, CIAW). Washington, Eckman and West Chester won that first national title in 1969.

In 1971, Washington became one of the first Black women to play for Team USA (along with Colleen Bowser), while competing in Brazil at the world championships. She didn’t compete at the Olympics as a player. Women’s basketball wasn't introduced at the Olympic Games until 1976, but according to Washington, the plan was for the sport to begin in 1972.

Players moved to Missouri to practice and train with expectations to compete in Munich, but apparently, the Olympics officials "overscheduled" the men and then pushed back women’s basketball to 1976. But, since she was near Kansas, Washington connected with a former West Chester track & field teammate and that’s how her career with the Jayhawks began.

Washington eventually made it to the Olympics as the first Black coach on an Olympic staff, where she won gold an assistant on the 1996 team. She is also the first Black coach to lead Team USA in international competition (1982). While at Kansas, she recruited and coached Lynette Woodard, who remains the second all-time leading scorer in collegiate women’s basketball history (behind Pearl Moore) and All-American and WNBA champion Tamecka Dixon.

Marian Washington retired in 2004 and is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame