Opposing female coaches make history with boy’s teams

A ladies’ first

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

What transpired on the hardwood floor inside the gymnasium at FAMU High looked like just another basketball game. 

From the sidelines the view was profoundly different as two females paced from opposing benches. Q’Vaunda Curry coached the Jefferson Somerset Tigers, while Dione Desir called the shots from the FAMU High  Baby Rattler’s side.

It was a historic Friday night, as never before have two women coached opposing teams in a boys’ high school basketball game in Leon County.

The significance of the night overshadowed an 83-56 victory by FAMU High.

“I’m just humbled to be a part of history,” said Curry, who played college ball at FAMU during the mid-1980’s. “We are coming up on February (Black History Month) and there are a lot of historic figures so now I’m in that conversation and to me that’s just amazing to be part of history.”

While both women are coaching boy’s teams for the first time, they have some personal history. Desir was Curry’s trainer when she played at FAMU, making it an emotional meeting between the two.

However, Desir said she couldn’t allow herself to become overwhelmed by the moment.

“I just saw her as another person coaching,” said Desir, who played at USF and eventually returned to Tallahassee to coach the girl’s team  at Godby High School.

Curry also brought previous coaching experience into the game. She coached the girl’s middle school and varsity teams at Crossroads Academy in Quincy until she was offered the Somerset job during the off season.

The historic matchup was a display of different coaching styles from the sidelines. Curry was more methodical, repeatedly urging her players to “set the ball up.”

On the opposite side, Desir was more hands on. She took advantage of every foul-shooting opportunity, calling certain players to the sideline where she demonstrated specific skills.

“It’s all about teaching them the fundamentals,” she said. “That’s been from the beginning when we saw what we were working with. We had to take it back to the foundation and repeatedly tell somebody over and over.

“I see coaching and teaching as two different things and I’m trying to teach them. When you teach, that’s when you help them with the mistakes they’re making in the game.”

Somerset was competitive for the first 20 minutes and held the Baby Rattlers to a one-possession lead, 26-23. The Tigers kept it close on the strength of their long-ball shooting, hitting three of their five three-pointers in the first half.

The difference in depth began to take its toll, though. The Tigers had only two reserves, while the Baby Rattlers had a much deeper bench that helped them to a 49-35 lead going into the final quarter.

By then, Shareed Ross had established his dominance on the floor for the Baby Rattlers. The freshman, who last year played at Griffin Middle School, said being a part of a historic game meant more than his team-high 18 points.

“It’s big,” he said, adding that it didn’t take long for him and his teammates to buy in after Desir became their coach.

“At first we didn’t know what to expect,” Ross said. “We were lacking then we pulled it together.”

Trey Neely, a junior at Somerset who led the Tigers with 19 points, said he wished his team could have won for Curry.

Playing for Curry is no different than having a male coach, he said.

“I thought it was going to be different, but when we got into practice we worked even harder,” Neely said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Desir made frequent substitution in the last quarter. Every player who returned to the bench was required to acknowledge his teammates with a handshake.

Desire demands that.

“It’s team camaraderie,” she said. “They have to understand that these are their brothers and your team is your brothers. You have to let them know that you’re going to always have their backs whether you do good or bad.”