Alex Black wasn't chasing coaching roles of any sort when her college basketball career ended.
Now she has an opportunity not many women have had as a coach for a professional men's team.
The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga guard, a senior in 2013-14, is back in her hometown of Memphis and working as an assistant for Team 901, which is scheduled to play in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team, single-elimination event with a take-home prize of $2 million for the winners. Games take place in July and August and will be televised on ESPN.
NBA alumni have been among the participants in the annual event, with the TBT teams often geography-based as the general managers typically choose players based on where they live or the college for which they played.
After a Mocs career in which the 5-foot-9 Black tallied 649 points, 173 assists, an All-Southern Conference season as a senior and all-tournament recognition as a member of the UTC teams that won league tourney titles in 2013 and 2014, she remained around the game, but mainly through pickup basketball games in her hometown. However, that led to an assistant coaching role at her high school alma mater, Harding Academy, and she was at a gym shooting when Quintin Delaware, the GM of Team 901, approached her.
"He reached out to me and was kind of like, picking my brain," Black told the Times Free Press. "Then he said, 'I think it would be really cool if you helped out. What do you think?' He opened up this opportunity for me."
A woman coaching men isn't all that common, although it's becoming less rare in basketball.
Becky Hammon is the top assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. Former University of Tennessee guard Kara Lawson is with the Boston Celtics. Niele Ivey was an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies before becoming the head coach at her college alma mater, Notre Dame, after the recent retirement of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Muffet McGraw. Louisiana Tech and WNBA great Teresa Weatherspoon is an assistant for the New Orleans Pelicans, whose executive staff includes Swin Cash, who played for three WNBA championship teams.
Last month, Tamara Moore became the second woman and the first African American woman to become a head coach of a men's college basketball team when the former WNBA player was tabbed to lead Mesabi Range College, a junior college in Virginia, Minnesota. The first woman to do so was Kerri-Ann McTiernan, who coached at Kingsborough Community College in New York City and led the program to a conference title in 2000.
Black's role as an assistant for a team that features one of the larger backcourts in the tournament could give her opportunities to network and potentially create opportunities to continue her coaching career at a higher level.
"When (Delaware) reached out to me, I was honest with him and asked, 'What do you think I could bring to the table? How do you think players would react to it?' He just told me he thought I would be a good fit. I was honored that he would reach out to me and thought I could bring something new to the staff that most teams don't have or that this team has ever had, and I do think there are things that I can bring that are completely different, while some other things I think we see eye to eye on.
"I love basketball. I love the game. I'm sure I'm always going to, and I was grateful. I had just got back into coaching, so when he gave me this opportunity, it did kind of open my eyes to be like, 'Wow, I can really see what this is about and what I can learn from this experience and what I can give them, while learning more and seeing if this is something I'd really like? Something I could do?
"Experiencing this could open up a new opportunity, something new for me."