When Darnell Haney accepted a job offer to join Head Coach Tasha Butts’ staff, he had no idea he would find himself leading the Georgetown women’s basketball program a mere few months later.
Georgetown hired Haney as an associate head coach in May. When Butts stepped back from her coaching duties to focus on her health in September, Haney stepped up to lead the team. Following Butts’ death Oct. 23, Georgetown Athletics confirmed Haney will serve as the interim head coach for at least the 2023-24 season.
Haney said he is forever indebted to Butts and her legacy.
“Coach Tasha saw something in me and asked me to come on board and help her,” Haney told The Hoya. “I feel totally honored that she would even think of me to do that.
“Coach Tasha was one of the strongest, most joyful women I ever met and I appreciate everything she has done for me and my family,” Haney added. “She was a tremendous force.”
Haney previously served on Jacksonville University’s coaching staff for 10 years, including as head coach from the 2018-19 season onward. Under his leadership, the Dolphins tallied a 64-75, 32-47 ASUN overall record across five seasons. Before Jacksonville, Haney nurtured several Division I talents as a high school basketball coach at Jones High School in Orlando, Fla.
Before her death, Butts, who had met Haney on the recruiting trail, told Georgetown Athletics that Haney was a “home run hire.”
“I have always respected the way that he works,” the late Butts said in a Georgetown Athletics press release. “He is someone that will bring a ton of experience, especially having been a head coach himself. I was looking for someone that shared my values on and off the court and he checked every box.”
In the McDonough practice gym where posters honoring Butts and her Tasha Tough campaign lined the walls, Haney vowed to honor Butts’ legacy every day through the everyday actions of him and his team.
“It’s how you go about your day, it’s how you go out there and compete on the floor — that’s how you honor her, and that’s what we’re gonna do,” Haney said. “There’s gonna be times when we’re sick, when we’re gonna be hurting, when we don’t feel like practicing, when we don’t feel like doing extra. But extra is what Tasha Tough is; extra would have been what Coach Tasha would have wanted us to do. So we’re going to be extra and then not ordinary — extraordinary.”
In line with Butts’ mantra of “earned never given,” Haney is continuing to nurture the winning culture she started to build, setting a lofty goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament — a feat the Hoyas have not reached since 2012.
“In previous years, we were settling,” junior forward Brianna Scott said. “We were settling for mediocrity. But this year, he’s holding us to such a high standard that there’s no way we can be mediocre.”
Haney consistently entrenches this standard by not accepting anything short of the best effort from his players, senior guard Kelsey Ransom said.
“Anytime you’re not seizing the moment, he will let you know,” Ransom said. “He pushes us and he doesn’t want to settle for average. He’s allergic to being average. He’s making all of us allergic to being average.”
To entrench this high standard in the program, Haney is meticulous and articulate in his coaching, setting consistent expectations for his team.
“As players, I want them to have the freedom and opportunity to discover,” Haney said. “But at the same time, I’m a little bit of a disciplinarian because the structure has got to be there.”
The culture Haney is building extends beyond just winning, though. Through his dad jokes, fist bumps and warmth, Haney exhibits a certain love of life that can’t help but be infectious.
“Who he is as a person translates to why he’s maybe yelling at us because we didn’t box out, who he is as a person is why he’s celebrating us when we have a fantastic backdoor pass and ends practice early,” Ransom said.
Haney’s high standards for basketball mirror the character standards he sets for the players, the staff and himself. Above all, Haney said his number one value is that his players and staff are “good people.”
“He is such a caring person and just such a passionate person when it comes to not just basketball, but just being alive,” Ransom said of Haney. “He’s just a ball of life and loves living.”
Ultimately, it was no accident that Butts brought Haney to the Hilltop. He exhibits the same determined ambition and care for his players as the “tremendous force” that came before him. Bolstered by the legacy Butts left behind, Haney seems poised to rise to the challenge of leading his Hoyas through the on-and-off-court obstacles that the coming season will inevitably present.
“We’re gonna have fun, we’re gonna play hard, we’re gonna play together, and we’re going to be Tasha Tough,” Haney said.