Nancy Darsch, inaugural coach of the New York Liberty who recorded the WNBA's first-ever victory, died Monday at the age of 68 after battling Parkinson's disease.
Darsch led the Liberty to a win over Los Angeles in the league's inaugural game on June 21, 1997, en route to a spot in the title game two months later. The Liberty fell to the Houston Comets, 65-51, on Aug. 30, 1997, in the one-game championship.
"We are grateful for Nancy's leadership as a pioneer of this game," the Liberty said in a statement. "Her contributions to the advancement of both collegiate and professional women's basketball and her passion for the game will forever be felt."
Darsch coached one more season with the Liberty before taking over the Washington Mystics in 1999. She resigned during the 2000 season. Darsch finished with a 56-54 record. Darsch was an assistant coach with the Seattle Storm when they won the title in 2010.
Darsch also coached at Ohio State, compiling a 234-125 record over 12 seasons (1985-97) and leading the Buckeyes to the 1993 national championship game, where they lost to Sheryl Swoopes and Texas Tech. Ohio State won the Big Ten regular-season title four times under Darsch and went to the NCAA Tournament seven times.
"Nancy was a trailblazer, coach and mentor. I was lucky to have such a caring and kind coach," former Ohio State star Katie Smith said in a statement. "She loved what she did and the people she shared it with. Always had a smile on her face, a fun comment to make you laugh and a playful punch on the arm. She will be dearly missed. Rest easy, Nancy."
--Field Level Media