As the new head coach of a men's junior college basketball team and the only female head coach of a men's collegiate program in the country, former WNBA player Tamara Moore said she hopes to prove that a woman is just as capable of coaching a men's squad as a man.
"Now, it's time for me to show you guys and show people that women are just as knowledgeable as men to coach the game," said Moore, the new men's basketball head coach at Mesabi Range College in Virginia, Minnesota, where she accepted the job Tuesday. She will also serve as the softball head coach.
Last week, Moore left her post as girls' basketball coach at Edison High School in Minneapolis to make history. She is the only woman known to hold a head-coaching role for a men's team in college basketball, at any level, right now.
"We're excited to see what Coach Moore can do at Mesabi Range," said Tristan Spears, spokesman for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
The post is intriguing because Moore has been a pioneer throughout her career, she said. She was the first woman to play in the Minneapolis inner-city, all-star classic game for the top boys in the area. At the time, the event didn't feature a women's game. A few years after Moore's appearance, however, that changed. She has also been the owner of a semi-pro men's team and a semi-pro men's league, the OBA League.
A high school All-American, Moore said the first thing basketball players, male or female, respect about her is her résumé.
After she secured a spot on the all-Big Ten first team for the second consecutive season, the former Wisconsin star became the 15th pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, joining the Miami Sol. Moore played for seven WNBA teams before launching a career overseas.
She said coaching men doesn't faze her. The Mesabi players she has spoken to thus far, she said, have been impressed by her highlight reel. She said she hasn't been asked how male players will respond to her, an unfair and unnecessary concern some female coaches have encountered.
"I can use my recruiting calls in this process as an answer to that question: I didn't even get that question once," said Moore, who will lead a program that finished 6-19 this season. "My résumé speaks for itself."
A former high school guidance counselor who now works at Mesabi Range College reached out to Moore to gauge her interest in the position. While that connection helped Moore's candidacy, she also credited multiple women, including San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, New Orleans Pelicans executive Swin Cash and Pelicans assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon.
Bernadette Mattox, a pioneer who joined Rick Pitino's staff as an assistant at Kentucky in 1990, preceded that group.
"For me, it's not new, just being someone that's always tried to push the game forward," Moore said. "I think it means a lot, looking at Becky Hammon and Teresa Weatherspoon and Swin Cash, all women I played with or against in the WNBA, who opened the door for this opportunity. The biggest thing for me is those doors led to this door."
Moore isn't the first woman to make coaching history at the junior college level. Kerri-Ann McTiernan was the men's basketball head coach at Kingsborough Community College in New York City when that program won a conference title in 2000. Moore is the first African-American woman to coach a men's team in college basketball. No woman has ever been the head coach of a Division I men's basketball program.
Moore said she hopes that will change in the future.
"I'm honored to coach on any level," she said. "The ultimate goal for me is to be a Division I coach. I've never been doubted about my coaching ability. I just think it's all about opportunity. The message, with my hiring, is that the ceiling is now broken, and let's just take it even further."