Two Women’s Basketball Coaches on the Future of the Sport
Janice Washington, head coach of the Lincoln University women’s basketball team, is hardly a newcomer to her field. Washington, 44, is in her 18th year of coaching, including stints at Daytona State College, Campbell University, Lackawanna College and Vicenza High School in Italy.
But during a recent video call, when Cheryl Reeve, the head coach and president of basketball operations for the W.N.B.A.’s Minnesota Lynx, started to talk about leadership, Washington grabbed a pen and started taking notes — and for good reason: Reeve, 56, is a three-time W.N.B.A. Coach of the Year and has led Minnesota to four league championships. In 2019, she was named the league’s Executive of the Year.
Washington may have been note-taking out of a desire to follow in Reeve’s footsteps — and her time at Lincoln has offered a promising start. Last year, her career took a leap forward. In her first season at Lincoln, a Division II program, she led the team to its first C.I.A.A. Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. In June, she was named the Clarence “Big House” Gaines College Basketball Coach of the Year for Division II by the National Sports Media Association.
Her second season didn’t start quite as smoothly. With 10 new players on the roster, as well as several new assistants, the Lions started 10-6, far-off the pace of their 22-8 record in Washington’s debut season.
Then something clicked for Lincoln in early January. After Washington’s conversation with Reeve, one of the sport’s brightest minds and most recognizable faces, the Lions won five games in a row.
Ms. Washington’s team is peaking at the right time, with the conference tournament set to begin Feb. 21. During this conversation, which has been condensed and edited, Reeve told Washington that she’d be watching.