Team 901 coach Alex Black on a mission to break gender barrier in basketball

 

By: Kathryn Maloney


Alex Black knows she belongs at the highest levels of coaching 

Alex Black garnered a whole new perspective for the game after transitioning from player to coach.

Though she “often has that urge and desire to be out on the court again,” she is embracing her new coaching role as best she can. 

Her love for the game is obvious. As a first year assistant coach for Team 901, Black is a member of an exclusive club of women currently coaching a men's team. In fact, from a young age she has been fearless in being the only female athlete amongst a group of guys.

“I was definitely the only girl playing in my neighborhood in elementary school with the boys," said Black. “I was for sure that girl, but I loved playing with them, they made me better, and definitely made me tougher.” 

Black credits those guys for helping take her game to the next level. In her highly successful career at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Black was named to the Southern Conference All-Tournament First Team as a senior. She also received All-Conference recognition from the league coaches. One highlight of her time playing college ball was defeating #20 Tennessee in 2012, a big feat for a mid-major. Despite her playing career coming to an end, she has found new ways to keep herself involved in the game.

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After graduating in 2014, she originally planned on continuing her career overseas. But things changed and Black found herself going back to school to get a nursing degree. She wanted basketball to remain a part of her life so she decided to get into coaching. When going back to her high school, Harding Academy, to train, she stumbled upon an opportunity to help coach the girls varsity team. It's a job she has embraced.

In addition to coaching, Black still competes in women’s leagues in the Memphis area. A lot of the women she plays with are also coaches, and she’s appreciated sharing a bond over being on the other side of the game with them. 

Black didn’t stumble upon TBT by accident. Assistant coach and General Manager Quintin Delaware sought her out after seeing her play in one of these local Memphis leagues. “Coach Q,” as he is referred to, reached out to Black after seeing her success on the court and researching her playing career. Black was immediately captivated with the idea and gave Coach Q high praise. 

 

"I was honored because I already knew [Coach Q's] passion for the game and his love for helping Memphis talent excel at all levels on and off the court," said Black. "He embraces the ‘Memphis vs Everybody’ local quote and I appreciated and respected that.” 

Coming off a summer where they got bounced in Round 1 by Bluff City, Team 901 is hoping to start with a fresh slate. They are returning core pieces of the team while also adding some essential new additions. Their backcourt may be the biggest in the region with 6-foot-6 C.J. Anderson at point guard and 6-foot-7 Marcus Tarrance at shooting guard. All of their players are Memphis natives, helping to create a unique bond. Black expects them to be a mismatch problem on offense while also being able to switch everything on defense.  

“We expect that embracing our ‘Mamba mentality’ and our ‘Memphis vs Everybody’ attitude will help us win the Jackson regional and hopefully that $2 million in August as well,” said Black. “We plan to donate to three local non-profit organizations within the inner city of Memphis.” 

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On a larger scope, Black thinks it is important for women to continue to breakthrough as coaches in men’s sports. She especially looks up to Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis's very own Niele Ivey of the Memphis Grizzlies, who were some of the first females to break into coaching on the men’s side. 

One of the first things she asked Coach Q when he reached out to her was what he thought she could bring to the table. When he responded with “‘women bring a different strength, innovation, insight, responsibility, patience, ideas, determination, work ethic, and love to anything she's a part of,’" Black was instantly sold. She knew she was capable of bringing those qualities to Team 901. 

Black believes that women need to continue to push themselves to break gender barriers in sports.

“Women should not be afraid to go for it with confidence," said Black. "We have to value ourselves and what we bring to the table and when given an opportunity go above and beyond to show why we belong.”