Nine Coaches Looking for their First Naismith Coaching Win

ATLANTA (March 4, 2020) – In the list of semifinalists revealed today by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, nine of the 10 contenders for the 2020 Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award would be first-time winners–and first-time winners for their respective schools. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, who won the award in 2012 and led her team to a Division I Championship title last season, is the only semifinalist vying for her second Coach of the Year honor.

The other nine candidates include Adia Barnes (Arizona), Lisa Fortier (Gonzaga), Nell Fortner (Georgia Tech), Kelly Graves (Oregon), Joe McKeown (Northwestern), Wes Moore (North Carolina State), Dawn Plitzuweit (South Dakota), Dawn Staley (South Carolina) and Jeff Walz (Louisville). While this would be the first win of the Coach of the Year honor for each of these coaches, Staley has won the Citizen Naismith Trophy for Women’s Player of the Year twice (1991, 1992), while playing at the University of Virginia. The contenders represent six conferences nationwide, two of which—the Summit League and the West Coast Conference—have yet to win the Coach of the Year honor.

“The competition for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award intensifies as the regular season comes to a close,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “It’s an incredible challenge for our voters to differentiate one coach from another, yet that’s something we have learned to expect every year as different teams and their coaches rise to the top.”

The list will be narrowed to four finalists on March 19, and fans will be able to support their favorite women’s college coach by visiting between March 20-April 1, to cast their ballot. The fan vote will account for five percent of the overall final vote. The 2020 Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year will be announced on April 4, and the winner will be honored at their school at a later date.

“This year’s group of Women’s Coach of the Year semifinalists represent a great variety of coaches across the country,” said Stacy Gardella, vice president of brand marketing at WernerCo. “This is a wonderful example of the tremendously talented coaches making their mark on these schools and female athletes.”

Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year 2020 Semifinalists

NellFortnerGeorgia TechACC
JoeMcKeownNorthwesternBig Ten
WesMooreNorth Carolina StateACC
KimMulkeyBaylorBig 12
DawnPlitzuweitSouth DakotaSummit League
DawnStaleySouth CarolinaSEC

The four finalists will be chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom base their selections on outstanding coaching performances during the 2019-20 college basketball season. The vote will be tabulated and certified by Aprio, a premier, CPA-led business advisory firm, headquartered in Atlanta.

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Founded during the 1956-57 season, the Atlanta Tipoff Club is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club administers the Naismith Awards, the most prestigious national honors in all of college and high school basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, the family of Naismith Awards annually recognizes the most outstanding men’s and women’s college and high school basketball players and coaches. Other Naismith Awards are presented to the men’s and women’s college basketball defensive players of the year, as well as lifetime achievement awards to basketball officials and outstanding contributors to the game. UCLA’s Lew Alcindor received the first Citizen Naismith Trophy in 1969, while the late Anne Donovan (Old Dominion) was the inaugural women’s recipient in 1983. Corporate partners of the Naismith Awards include Citizen Watch Company, Jersey Mike’s and Werner Ladder.


Werner, the official ladder of NCAA® March Madness® and the world leader in ladders offers a complete line of climbing products designed for working at heights. The portfolio includes ladders, attic ladders, scaffolding, pump jacks, stages, planks, stepstools, accessories and fall protection equipment including harnesses, lanyards, anchors and compliance kits. From ladders to fall protection, WERNER provides a full line of climbing equipment that’s engineered to give you maximum safety, durability and productivity at every height. All Werner products meet or exceed applicable international safety standards. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Traci Messier

Jackson Spalding for the Atlanta Tipoff Club

[email protected]