One final four will go on this year and Arizona head coach Adia Barnes is in the running. The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced the four finalists for the 2020 Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award on Thursday, and the fourth-year head coach was in the field.
Barnes led her team to heights not seen since she last wore the Arizona uniform as a player in 1998. From the best year-end finish at No. 12 in the Associated Press poll to mentoring the first AP All-American second-teamer in school history, she made marks in the history books as a coach the same way she did as a player.
It was just another step up the ladder for Barnes and her squad. After a 14-16 first season in 2016-17, she went through a rough patch with a short bench in 2017-18. Then, she led her team to an 18-game turnaround and a WNIT title last year. Her team’s 24 victories this season were the second most in school history.
The Wildcats had their best opening in school history, going 13-0 before falling to fellow unbeaten UCLA in Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 5. Her team beat three top 10 teams for the first time in school history. Arizona had both its first win over a top 5 team and its first road victory over a top 10 team.
Until stumbles down the stretch when they lost to Colorado without Aari McDonald and then fell to California on senior day, the Wildcats hadn’t lost to anyone ranked outside the AP top 10. When all was said and done, three of the Wildcats’ seven losses came against Oregon, which ended the regular season ranked second in both the AP and RPI.
Barnes coached McDonald and Cate Reese to All-Pac-12 and Sam Thomas to All-Pac-12 honorable mention recognition this season. She also helped McDonald become the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Thomas make All-Defensive squad.
The other three finalists for coach of the year are Oregon’s Kelly Graves, Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Northwestern coach Joe McKeown.
Fans are invited to cast votes for their choice for Coach of the Year between March 20 and April 1 by visiting naismithfanvote.com. Fan voting will account for five percent of the overall vote, and the winner will be announced on April 3.