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The Atlanta Tipoff Club | March 17, 2021

4 finalists announced for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year Award

DI women's basketball committee discusses final bracket and what they packed for extended stay in San Antonio

ATLANTA  – The Atlanta Tipoff Club today announced the four finalists for the 2021 Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year Awards, and the quartet features three seeking their first honor and a two-time honoree. Texas A&M’s Gary Blair, NC State’s Wes Moore and Joni Taylor from Georgia all seek to add their names to the Naismith Awards family, while Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer looks to claim her third such honor after winning it in 2011 and 1990.

The finalists emerged from a group of 10 semifinalists and were selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom base their selections on outstanding on-court coaching performances during the 2020-21 regular college basketball season. The next round of voting runs from March 19-31, with the winner being announced live on CBS Sports Network’s NCAA® March Madness® 360 studio show on April 2.

TOURNEY TIME: Live coverage of the women's tournament

“In a season so challenged by the pandemic, we are all appreciative of what coaches everywhere did to create a safe and healthy environment for their players so that we as fans could enjoy the games, and to watch the wins and accolades grow for these four in particular is simply remarkable,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “With the tournament upon us, the stakes are higher, and the competition to win the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year award will be just as intriguing.”

Once again fans will have a say in who wins the top coaching honor by participating in the Naismith Awards Fan Vote presented by Jersey Mike’s. By visiting from March 19-31, fans will have the opportunity to cast a ballot daily for the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year Awards and the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy for the Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year. There also will be opportunities to vote for your favorite women’s coach on the @NaismithTrophy Twitter page. The fan vote accounts for five percent of the overall vote, which will be tabulated and certified by Aprio, a premier CPA-led business advisory firm, headquartered in Atlanta.

BRACKET: See the official women's NCAA Tournament bracket here

Later this year, the winner will be presented with a Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year commemorative trophy designed by nationally acclaimed sculptor Brian Hanlon. The bronze trophy features Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, holding the original peach basket and ball used to play the first game.

About the Finalists:

Gary Blair, Texas A&M

  • Blair led the Aggies to their first regular-season SEC Championship with a 13-1 mark.
  • Texas A&M also has the most victories over ranked teams this season (9).
  • He coached his team to a No. 2 AP poll ranking, a first in program history.
  • Having served as head coach of A&M since 2003, this season marks the 16th consecutive season Blair has led his team to at least 20 wins.
  • His team was selected as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament Mercado Region.

Wes Moore, NC State

  • Moore won the ACC Tournament Championship for the second consecutive season, marking the first time in program history back-to-back conference tournament titles have been achieved.
  • The Wolfpack currently sit at 20-2 this season with one of its losses coming in overtime and two victories against teams ranked No. 1 at the time.
  • He was named ACC Coach of the Year by the league’s head coaches.
  • Moore’s team has made the tournament each year since 2017 and reached back-to-back Sweet 16s in 2018 and 2019.
  • His team was selected as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament Mercado Region.

Joni Taylor, Georgia

  • Taylor led Georgia to the SEC Championship game for the first time since 2004, after defeating No. 17 Kentucky and No. 2 Texas A&M.
  • The Bulldogs were picked No. 9 in the preseason and ended the regular season in fourth place.
  • She was named the SEC Coach of the Year for women’s basketball.
  • The Bulldogs will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 20-6 record, after finishing 17-14 in 2020 and defeating five Top-25 opponents, including a sweep of Tennessee for the first time since 1985.
  • Her team was selected as the No. 3 seed the NCAA Tournament Alamo Region.

Tara VanDerveer, Stanford

  • VanDerveer led the Cardinals to their 24th all-time Pac-12 regular season title as well as the 2021 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Championship.
  • Stanford currently has a 25-2 record this season under her leadership.
  • She was named the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year for the 16th time.
  • This season, she surpassed Pat Summitt as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball history, currently at 1,119 career wins.
  • Her team was selected as the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play in the Alamo region.

“It is a true honor to be aligned with the Naismith Coach of the Year Award recognizing these legendary coaches and their accomplishments,” said Stacy Gardella, vice president of brand marketing at Werner Co. “Throughout the season, these coaches have overcome challenges both on and off the court, and each is deserving of this special recognition.” For more information, visit


Founded during the 1956-57 season, the Atlanta Tipoff Club is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club administers the Naismith Awards, the most prestigious national honors in all of college and high school basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, the family of Naismith Awards annually recognizes the most outstanding men’s and women’s college and high school basketball players and coaches. Other Naismith Awards are presented to the men’s and women’s college basketball defensive players of the year, as well as lifetime achievement awards to basketball officials and outstanding contributors to the game. UCLA’s Lew Alcindor received the first Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy in 1969, while the late Anne Donovan (Old Dominion) was the inaugural women’s recipient in 1983. Corporate partners of the Naismith Awards include Jersey Mike’s and Werner Ladder.


WERNER, a WernerCo brand, is the official ladder of NCAA® March Madness® and the world leader in ladders with a complete line of climbing products designed for working at heights. The portfolio includes ladders, attic ladders, scaffolding, pump jacks, stages, planks, stepstools, accessories and fall protection equipment including harnesses, lanyards, anchors and compliance kits. From ladders to fall protection, Werner provides a full line of climbing equipment that’s engineered to give you maximum safety, durability and productivity at every height. For more information, visit the Werner Ladder website.

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