- Associated Press - Sunday, June 3, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - New Jeff Davis boys basketball coach LaKenya Knight has already identified a major challenge the Vols face in the coming season.

“I told the guys they’re going to get everyone’s best effort,” she said, “because no one is going to want to lose to me.”

She understands the challenge ahead. She knows the childhood “you lost to a girl” taunt isn’t lost on adult coaches and expects her male counterparts will have extra motivation to beat Jeff Davis with a woman leading the program.

Sexist? Sure, but it’s true.

Knight became one of the few female coaches hired to coach a boys high school team - and believed to be the first in AHSAA basketball history - when she was named the Volunteers’ new coach last month. A handful of women have coached boys teams, including Carolyn Wright stepping in for her husband, Bobby, at Central-Phenix City in 2014 and Connie Morris filling in for a ill coach in the early 2000s at Jess Lanier.

Men coach high school girls teams all the time. In last year’s State Finals in Birmingham, 18 of the 28 girls teams were coached by men, but not a single woman coached a boys basketball team statewide. Men also routinely coach the girls-only sports of softball and volleyball, but women rarely coach boys sports like football and wrestling.

The notion of women coaching men rose to national prominence recently as Spurs assistant Becky Hammon interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, and 17-year NBA star Pau Gasol wrote an op-ed in The Players Tribune in support of Hammon.

But a woman coaching boys, especially in Alabama, perhaps the reddest of red states?

Knight clearly knows how to win. She led Jeff Davis to back-to-back Class 7A girls championships in 2015 and 2016 and helped Jasmine Davis become Miss Basketball. Her career also includes stop at Montgomery County High, LAMP and serving as an assistant to Tim Miller at Jeff Davis.

She said she’s received plenty of support from other female basketball coaches, a welcome sign for a coach doing something no one in Alabama has ever done. She also said she probably hasn’t been as excited about a future season since she was playing at Auburn-Montgomery, where she set the school’s career assists record.

Knight said she had not considered coaching boys basketball before being approached by the Jeff Davis administration about replacing Terry Posey, the Vols’ longtime coach who led them to the 2006 Class 6A boys title.

“I’m just honored,” she said. …


Information from: The Birmingham News, http://www.al.com/birminghamnews

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