By Mariana Smith
WASHINGTON – The Georgetown University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced the passing of Women’s Basketball Head Coach Tasha Butts earlier today following a two-year battle with breast cancer. Butts was a star player, nationally-recognized assistant coach and first-year head coach before her death at age 41.
“I am heartbroken for Tasha’s family, friends, players, teammates and colleagues,” said Francis X. Rienzo Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed. “When I met Tasha, I knew she was a winner on the court, and an incredible person whose drive, passion and determination was second to none. She exhibited these qualities both as a leader and in her fight against breast cancer. This is a difficult time for the entire Georgetown community, and we will come together to honor her memory.”
Butts came to Georgetown from Georgia Tech this past April after a long coaching and professional WNBA career. She joined the Georgia Tech women’s basketball staff as an assistant coach in April 2019, and was promoted to associate head coach in April 2021.
“Tasha’s passing is a devastating loss. She was extraordinary—Tasha was a person of character, determination, vision, and kindness. She will be deeply missed by our community and by so many people around the country who have been inspired by her life. We offer her family our most sincere condolences,” said University President John J. DeGioia
Butts helped guide Georgia Tech to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament, most recently earning an at-large bid in 2021-22. During that season, the Yellow Jackets spent 14 weeks in the national rankings, climbing as high as No. 11 in the Associated Press poll. A marquee win for GT during the season took place on Dec. 9, 2021 when the Jackets upended No. 3/2 UConn, 57-44, to snap a 240-game winning streak against unranked opponents.
It was also during this season that Butts announced she had been diagnosed with advanced stage metastatic breast cancer, and she continued to play a significant role within the program while going through treatment.
In 2020-21, Butts helped guide the Yellow Jackets to a 17-9 overall record and a 12-6 ledger in the Atlantic Coast Conference to finish third and ranked No. 22 in the final USA Today/WBCA Coaches Poll during a global pandemic. In its historic season, Tech made its 10th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in program history. Working primarily with the guards, Butts helped tutor Lotta-Maj Lahtinen to become the ACC Most Improved Player.
In her first season on The Flats, Butts helped the Yellow Jackets to a 20-11 overall record, 10-8 in the ACC. Tech defeated four top-25 teams in 2019-20, including topping No. 4 NC State on the road, 65-61, to mark the highest ranked road win in program history. The Yellow Jackets were awaiting their postseason bid when the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her eight seasons at LSU, Butts was part of four 20-win seasons and six NCAA Tournament appearances highlighted by back-to-back Sweet 16 runs in 2012 and 2013. She helped ink three top-20 recruiting classes (2011, 2017, 2019), while signing seven top-100 prospects, including a McDonald’s All-American in 2017. In eight seasons at LSU, Butts coached and mentored six all-SEC academic honor roll recipients and developed seven all-SEC selections.
At LSU, Butts helped develop Raigyne Moncrief-Louis and Danielle Ballard, who both garnered all-SEC freshman team honors in their careers and were listed among LSU’s top 10 for scoring during their freshmen seasons. Louis would become the 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time all-SEC honoree. The only player in LSU history to record 1,600 points, 700 rebounds, 250 steals and 300 assists in a career, Louis was a 2018 WNBA Draft pick.
Under Butt’s guidance, Ballard broke LSU’s single-season record for steals (100) and became the first player in program history – men or women – to reach 100 steals in a season in 2012-13. Louis would top Ballard four seasons later with a program-record 107 steals.
Prior to her stint at LSU, Butts recorded three successful seasons (2008-11) as an assistant coach at UCLA. The Bruins reached the NCAA Tournament twice, compiling a 72-26 overall mark and second-place finishes in the Pac-10 Conference in both 2010 and 2011. The 2010-11 season was one for the record books as the Bruins set records for regular-season victories (26), Pac-10 win (16) and scoring defense (55.3 points per game), while earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
At UCLA, Butts mentored eight All-Pac-10 academic players, three All-Pac-10 honorees and two All-Pac-10 freshman team selections. In 2011, the program rose to a No. 7 national ranking, reached the Pac-10 Tournament Championship game and advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round, finishing the season with a 29-5 overall record.
During the 2007-08 season, Butts served as an assistant coach at Duquesne University where her responsibilities included recruiting, opponent scouting, academics, equipment liaison, scheduling and development of perimeter players.
A four-year letterwinner at Tennessee, playing for legendary Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, Butts helped the Lady Vols to a 124-17 record from 2000-04. Tennessee made a run to the Sweet 16 her freshman campaign and advanced to the 2002 Final Four in her sophomore season. She then helped the Lady Vols to back-to-back National Championship games her junior and senior seasons (2003, 2004). As a senior, Butts earned All-SEC Second Team honors after averaging 10.4 points per game and ranking second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (43.0).
Additionally, Butts was part of four SEC regular season championship teams, as Tennessee compiled a 55-1 SEC record in her four years. She left UT ranked fourth all-time in games played (141) and tied for seventh in three-point shots made (103). Butt’s career-high 37 points against Vanderbilt on Feb. 16, 2004, tied for 11th on the Lady Vols’ single-game scoring list.
Butts graduated from Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in sports management while minoring in business administration in 2004. She was chosen by the Minnesota Lynx with the 20th selection in the 2004 WNBA Draft and saw action in all 30 games as a rookie, helping the club equal a franchise record with 18 wins and earn a spot in the playoffs.
Following the 2004 WNBA season, she returned to her alma mater and served as a graduate assistant coach with Pat Summitt. The Lady Vols won the 2005 SEC Championship that season and advanced to the Final Four.
Butts played overseas in fall 2005 for Essa/Barreiro in Portugal, averaging nearly 18.0 points per game. The following season, she played for Raanana Hertizliya in Israel, where she scored 15.5 points per game. Butts also played briefly with the Charlotte Sting and Houston Comets of the WNBA.
Off of the court, Butts was one of just 14 assistant coaches from around the country chosen to participate in Advocates for Athletic Equity’s (AAE) annual “Achieving Coaching Excellence” Professional Development Program for basketball coaches in June 2016. In her first year at Georgia Tech, Butts was selected to participate in the 2020 Women Coaches NEXT UP program. In both 2021 and 2023, Butts was selected to the Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS) Watchlist. Butts was selected among a competitive field by the WBCA and Women Leaders in College Sports to participate in the program. She also served as a WBCA mentor.
A native of Milledgeville, Georgia, Butts attended Baldwin High School where she was a consensus All-American and the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. She remains the all-time leading scorer at the school and her high school jersey No. 23 was retired in December 2000. In August 2004, the city of Milledgeville honored Butts with a key to the city and a proclamation of achievement on “Tasha Butts Day.”
She is survived by her parents Spencer, Sr. and Evelyn, her brother Spencer, Jr. and her nephew Marquis along with an extended family and the entire women’s basketball community.
With the 2023-24 campaign tipping off in November, Darnell Haney has been named Georgetown’s interim head coach for the season. The Hoyas and BIG EAST Conference will continue to honor Butts’ memory all season keeping her Tasha Tough initiative going to bring awareness to early cancer screenings and detection.
COURTESY GEORGETOWN ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS