Former Women’s Basketball Coach Nancy Darsch passes
Coached the Buckeyes to four Big Ten titles and to its 1992-93 run to the Final Four
Ohio State lost a legend this week as former women’s basketball head coach and Hall of Famer Nancy Darsch passed away Monday at the age of 68 after battling Parkinson’s disease. Sara Darsch, a niece, contacted Ohio State with the news. Darsch was living in her hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Darsch was a women’s basketball pioneer. She achieved remarkable success as both a head coach and assistant coach at the high school, collegiate and professional levels and was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA in 1984 and 1996.
"Nancy Darsch was one of the greats in the history of our university and in the sport. She was a leader and trailblazer, bringing attention, new resources and a fierce competitive spirit to the game she loved and the young women she taught and mentored throughout her extraordinary career," said President Kristina M. Johnson. "Coach Darsch was a role model on and off the court to countless student-athletes in Ohio and across the country. She will be greatly missed. On behalf of Buckeye Nation, we offer our condolences to her family, friends and loved ones."
Darsch led the Buckeyes from 1985-97 and had a career record of 234-125. During her tenure, she guided the Buckeyes to four Big Ten titles and eight NCAA Tournament appearances. Her 1992-93 team had arguably the best run in program history. Behind freshman Katie Smith, Darsch and the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title, and blew through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament before knocking off No. 2 seed Virginia 75-73 to reach the school’s first Final Four. In Atlanta, the Buckeyes beat Big Ten rival Iowa 73-72 in overtime to reach the national title game where they would fall in a hard-fought game against Texas Tech, 84-82.
Darsch coached 21 All-Big Ten honorees during her tenure with the Buckeyes, including four Big Ten Players of the Year and three Big Ten Freshmen of the Year. In 1993, Smith became the first Buckeye freshman to garner All-America honors. In addition to Smith, Yvette Angel, Lisa Cline, Tracey Hall, Nikita Lowry and Averrill Roberts are all OSU Athletic Hall of Fame members who were coached by Darsch. In 2014, Darsch then joined her players as a member of the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Darsch left Ohio State in 1997 to coach the New York Liberty in the newly formed WNBA. She led the Liberty to a win in the league’s inaugural game and later, a place in that year’s WNBA championship game. Darsch also coached at Washington, Seattle and Minnesota in the WNBA before returning to the collegiate game as an assistant coach with her hometown team Boston College from 2006-08.
Darsch began her collegiate coaching career in 1978 as she served as an assistant coach for the late great Pat Summitt at Tennessee. Alongside Summitt, Darsch helped the Lady Vols make five trips to the Final Four. In 1984, she was an assistant with Summitt for Team USA as it won the gold medal at the games in Los Angeles. She was also on Tara VanDerveer’s staff during the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta when that team reclaimed the gold medal in a dominating performance, winning all eight games by an average of nearly 30 points per game.
Thoughts & Prayers
Katie Smith, Naismith Hall of Famer who played for Darsch from 1992-97
“Her time at Ohio State was special, and I can say that she was always a Buckeye, even after she left. She had such amazing love for her family and home in Boston! The lifelong friendships she made here at Ohio State lasted all the way to the end with love and support.
“Coach Darsch was a kind and authentic person who was always there for us. She respected her role as a pioneer and created a program that we were proud of. Nancy also truly enjoyed getting to know the fans as well as all of the athletic department. She was all in!
“My freshman year in 1992-93, when we won the Big Ten title and made it to the NCAA Championship game at the Final Four, was an unbelievable year. The road trips, the team bonding, the work we put in together on the floor, Buckeye Nation being behind us all the way to Atlanta. All of that was truly special for all of us involved and something I will never forget. She had a way of balancing the work and the fun which is what it is all about.
“Her knowledge of the game and experience were top notch. The respect her peers had for Nancy spoke volumes as she coached alongside Pat Summitt and was part of those Olympic teams. I had many a “come to my office” moments and they weren’t all about basketball, but how to handle yourself as a young person. She was always teaching and supporting. Nancy loved the game and loved the people. That rubbed off on us and has helped shape the person and coach I am today.”
Kim Dally, current performance coach at Ohio State who trained the women’s basketball team under Darsch
“Nancy Darsch was a trailblazer and a huge proponent of Title IX. In 1992 Nancy went to then-athletic director Jim Jones and pointed out that there were only two teams that had access to a strength coach and that was football and men’s basketball. In pointing out this discrepancy it opened the door to Nancy interviewing and hiring me to be the strength and conditioning coach for women’s basketball and any other sport in athletics that wanted to work with a strength coach. Her advocating for me and hiring me made me one of less than five full-time female strength coaches at the collegiate level across the country.
“Nancy took a chance on a brash 24-year-old woman and accepted the challenge of not only having me on her staff but developing me into a professional. Nancy was a role model to not only her players but to all young females in the athletic department. She was no nonsense and a fierce competitor. She was loved and respected by all of Buckeye Nation. She was the consummate team player. Even after being let go from the university, she reminded her incoming recruits that they weren’t coming to Ohio State to play for her. They were coming for the honor to represent The Ohio State University and play with their teammates. I am forever grateful to Nancy Darsch, not only for the career that she allowed me to have, but for teaching me what it means to be loyal and to show grace and poise in the face of adversity.”