August 21, 2023 

Tasha Butts carries powerful legacy into Georgetown head coaching role

Butts is part of Hall of Famer Pat Summitt's head coaching tree

Georgetown head coach Tasha Butts — who was hired on April 11, 2023 — still can’t believe her new title. After assistant coach stints at Duquesne (2007-08), UCLA (2008-11) and LSU (2011-19), and an associate head coach position at Georgia Tech (2019-23), Butts is humbled by the opportunity to take over a program in her own vision.

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“I wake up and I pinch myself every day and I still tell my mom on phone calls I can’t believe I’m the head coach for Georgetown University, so [I] operate with an immense amount of gratitude and so I’m just — I’m just blessed and thankful to be be sitting in this seat, to be honest,” Butts told The Next.

First-year head coach Butts is taking over a program that has struggled of late. Former head coach James Howard’s contract was not renewed after posting a 66-108 record (.379 winning percentage) in six seasons as head coach. Weeks before Butts’ hiring, the Hoyas season ended in a 30-point blowout against UConn in the BIG EAST Tournament quarterfinals. For Butts, the rich tradition at Georgetown withstands the program’s recent lulls. She wants to elevate the brand of Georgetown’s women’s basketball to reflect the rich basketball history of the school.

“I am extremely blessed that I am at such a prestigious institution like Georgetown,” Butts said. “We know the history academically of what it stands for and what that degree means. We know the history…on the men’s side with basketball and we also know the history of women, you know, when you talk about [Georgetown alums] Rebekkah Brunson when you talk about Sugar Rodgers, Monica McNutt and what they are doing now — life outside of Georgetown. And obviously we’re here to bring that history back to rejuvenate, to bring that excitement back to the women’s program.”

The Georgetown basketball program is in the midst of changes all around. Just days before the women’s program chose not to renew Howard’s contract as head coach of the women’s program, it was announced that the men’s program was parting ways with Hoya and NBA legend Patrick Ewing. As a collegiate player in the 1980s, Ewing helped establish Georgetown as a powerhouse in the vision of coaching legend John Thompson. Ewing was a three-time All-American as a player, earning National Player of the Year honors in 1985 and winning a national championship in 1984. Unfortunately, his coaching tenure at Georgetown was characterized by some significant lows and in six seasons as head coach, Ewing posted a losing 75-109 record, including a 7-25 (2-18 BIG EAST) showing this past season.

In his place, the Hoyas made a controversial hire, luring BIG EAST foe Providence’s head coach Ed Cooley to D.C. Cooley is a high-caliber, successful head coach with a proven track record and an infectious energy. He’s a good fit for a program on the turn-around, and Butts plans to leverage the excitement around the men’s program to grow the women’s basketball program.

New Georgetown men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley (L) stands beside new Georgetown women’s basketball head coach Tasha Butts as she delivers remarks from a podium. (Source: Georgetown WBB Twitter)

“One thing that Coach Cooley and I have talked about and we just kind of put our heads together to figure out how we’re going to do this — is we can easily build our programs separately which we will do because we have our own ideas of how we want to operate our programs, but we will spend a lot of time doing this together, building our programs together,” Butts said.

Legendary roots

In many ways, Tasha Butts is perfect for a coaching gig at a school with Georgetown’s history. A Tennessee alum, she knows what it means to represent an elite, storied basketball program. From 2000-04, she played college basketball in Knoxville under legendary head coach Pat Summitt. Representing the legacy of Summitt’s Lady Vols program is something that Butts takes very seriously.

“Just to be able to be mentioned in the same breath as Pat and — as I’m talking to you today [June 28], today is actually [the] anniversary [of] when she passed…[to be] in the same sentence [as Summitt] is, for me, just unbelievable and something that I would have never thought would have happened. But it all started for me, obviously, when she recruited me and I said ‘yes’ to her; that opened up every door possible that I would have never imagined and that was the best decision I could have ever made.”

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Butts now joins a coaching tree that includes Tennessee greats like Kelly Harper, Kara Lawson and the late Nikki McCray-Penson, just to name a few. As a new head coach, Butts enters the ranks of former Summitt greats who are now head coaches. She says she will lean on the lessons Pat taught her, and carry forth the Hall of Famers’ “Definite Dozen,” a list of 12 rules for success that Summitt would instill in each of her players. Alongside other Lady Vols now in the coaching ranks, Butts sees it as her duty to carry forth Pat’s teachings to the next generation of hoopers.

“Pat’s no longer here to speak for herself or [to] even carry on that legacy, and so it’s our job. It’s our job to do things the right way at our respective institutions that we are. It is our job to operate in the line of the Definite Dozen, that she instilled in us. Day two on campus after my interview, I introduced my team to the Definite Dozen — and that will be something that will be throughout our program through my tenure; it will be on walls, everyone that’s affiliated with this program will understand what the Definite Dozen is and how you use that for your life, in your life…We all live it because she instilled in us and so it’s special especially to say you played at the University of Tennessee.”

Like Summitt, Butts is committed to attracting the right student-athletes to her program that will buy into the team-first, competitive environment that she hopes to build. She said, “The one thing that matters most to me is character, point blank period — character first with the student athletes.”

“We’re going to defend. We’re going to rebound. We’re going to get after it right?” Butts said. “And our offense, you know, we’re going to run our offense. We’re going to recruit those players for that system. But we’re going to be known as a tough, tough team — hard-nosed, tenacious, energetic, you know, that old-school, ‘put your hard hat on, let’s go to work.'”

Although Tasha Butts admits that she’s still shocked she was named head coach of the Hoyas, her hiring should not come as a surprise. Butts’ diverse coaching experiences and the lessons she’s learned from her college coach Pat Summitt leave her well-prepared to lead Georgetown women’s basketball to a place of national prominence.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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