No matter which teams eventually win the NCAA men’s and women’s Tournaments, the biggest stories this year for different reasons focus on a pair of coaches. One is in their first year of college coaching, the other now an established mainstay within their conference. But if either or both can lead their teams to NCAA titles (at press time both were in the Elite Eight), then something rare will happen in college basketball: both champions will be lead by Black coaches.

Juwan Howard has already had a great season in his inaugural year at Michigan, irregardless of how the Wolverines do in their final games. He was named head coach last May, singing a five-year deal. While many thought that Howard, who’d been on the Miami Heat coaching staff from 2013-19, was headed for an NBA job, he jumped at the chance to be head coach at his alma mater, and the place where he’d once been part of the “Fab Five,” the five freshman who had helped catapult the Wolverines to national prominence by reaching the Final Four in both the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.

However Howard’s now become a fixture at Michigan. He was selected both Big Ten and National Coach  of the year by the Sporting News after the Wolverines went 14-3 and earned their first regular season championship in seven years. The United States Basketball Writers Association also awarded him their Coach of the Year honors. Despite losing his best player to injury, the Wolverines were in the Elite Eight at press time, and were facing the UCLA Bruins Tuesday night for a shot at returning to the Final Four.

Howard already made history when Michigan was named a number one seed for the Tournament. That made him the first person in NCAA history to enter the event as a number one seed both as a player and coach. The NBA’s loss is now definitely Michigan’s gain, and the results just may end up being an NCAA championship.

While Howard was an outstanding college player and longtime valuable pro, his playing accomplishments don’t match those of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley. A three-time Olympic gold medalist and also a topflight player at the University of Virginia, Staley eventually became one of the greatest players in both the American Basketball League and WNBA. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, and elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Coaching at first was an afterthought for Staley. She began coaching the Temple University Owls women’s basketball team in 2000 while still playing in the WNBA. But in eight years at Temple, she led the program to six NCAA tournaments, three regular season conference championships, and four conference tournament titles.

She’s been head coach at South Carolina since 2008. She became only the second individual to both play and coach a number one ranked team in 2014. Staley has led South Carolina to five SEC regular season championships, five SEC tournament championships, six Sweet Sixteens, two Final Fours, their first NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship in 2017. That same year she was named head coach of the USA national team.

Last April Staley became the first person to win the Naismith Award as both a player and coach. She also won the other three major National Coach of the Year awards, after she led her team to a 32 win season and a final ranking of #1 in both major polls. Unfortunately, COVID-19’s impact resulted in the Tournament being cancelled.

South Carolina faced the winner of the Texas/Maryland game Tuesday for another berth in the Final Four. Should the Gamecocks eventually win another title, she’ll become the first Black woman to win two NCAA championships as a coach. But whether their teams ultimately win or not, both Juwan Howard and Dawn Staley have achieved greatness and paved the way for other Black coaches as well.