A graphic image with a photo of the late head coach of the women's basketball team, Tasha Butts, accompanied by her name and the dates of her passing (1982-2023).
Category: University News

Title: Georgetown Mourns the Loss of Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tasha Butts

Georgetown’s Women’s Basketball Head Coach Tasha Butts, a star player, nationally-recognized assistant coach and first-year head coach, died on Monday, Oct. 23, after a two-year battle with breast cancer. She was 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 tenure as an assistant coach and a professional playing career in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and overseas. As a player, she led her teams to multiple NCAA Tournament appearances. On the sidelines, she mentored award-winning players and served as a beloved coach. In September, Butts stepped away from her role at Georgetown to focus on her health amid her ongoing battle against breast cancer. 

“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 Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

Her Time at Georgetown

Tasha Butts, the late head coach of Georgetown's women's basketball team, walks down a pathway smiling at the university.
Tasha Butts pictured at Georgetown upon arriving at the university in 2023.

Butts served as the head coach of Georgetown’s women’s basketball team, and at a news conference celebrating her new role, she shared her excitement. 

“It has always been a dream of mine and to be awarded this opportunity to coach at such a prestigious institution. It is beyond any words,” she said. “I’m elated that I will have the opportunity to mentor, develop and coach these young women.”

Reed, director of Intercollegiate Athletics, shared then how Butts embodied Georgetown’s tenant of cura personalis, or care of the whole person, in the challenges she experienced in basketball and in her personal life – and the strong leadership and mentorship she brought to the university.

Her Coaching Career

Prior to Georgetown, Butts 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. She helped guide Georgia Tech to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament during a global pandemic and advanced the team to the Sweet 16 for the second time in the program’s history. 

During the 2021-2022, the Yellow Jackets ranked as high as No. 11 in the Associated Press poll and continued a 240-game winning streak against unranked opponents.

It was also during this season, in November 2021, 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.

The diagnosis inspired the Tasha Tough campaign, in which Georgia Tech athletes helped bring awareness and raise money to bring quality care to women who can’t afford it through the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Butts served as an assistant coach for eight seasons at Louisiana State University (LSU). She was part of six NCAA Tournament appearances highlighted by back-to-back Sweet 16 runs in 2012 and 2013. She coached and mentored six all-SEC academic honor roll recipients and developed seven all-SEC selections. 

Prior to her stint at LSU, Butts recorded three successful seasons (2008-2011) as an assistant coach at UCLA, setting records for regular season victories and guiding the team to the NCAA Tournament twice.

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 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round.

During the 2007-2008 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.

An Award-Winning Coach

Tasha Butts pictured while serving as the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Georgetown.

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 2021 and 2023, she was selected to the Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS) Watchlist, a highly competitive program. She also served as a WBCA mentor.

A Star Player

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. Four years later, the city of Milledgeville honored Butts with a key to the city and a proclamation of achievement on “Tasha Butts Day.”

She went on to play at Tennessee for the legendary Hall of Fame Coach Pat Summitt, helping the Lady Vols to a 124-17 record from 2000-2004. She advanced to the Sweet 16 her first year and to the 2002 Final Four her sophomore season. From 2003-2003, she helped the Lady Vols to back-to-back National Championship games, and 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). 

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 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.

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.

Tasha Butts, the late head coach of Georgetown's women's basketball team, sits on the court for a magazine interview.
Tasha Butts in conversation with Ed Cooley, head coach of the men’s basketball team, as part of an interview in June with Georgetown Magazine.