IX AT 50: Linda Hargrove’s 3+ decades of coaching furthers women’s hoops at every level

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 10:07 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2021 at 10:13 PM CST
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for high school and collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

WICHITA, Kan. (WIBW) - The namesake of Cowley College’s athletic center did it all for the Tigers.

Linda Hargrove started the school’s track and field program in 1968 as a freshman. When Title IX passed in 1972, she had graduated — but her time as a student-athlete left an impression.

“The president of the community college called me and said, ‘Would you come back to Cowley and start our women’s basketball team?’” Hargrove said. “My response was, ‘I don’t know very much about basketball.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care what you know about basketball. I know how competitive you are and I know how hard you work, so you’ll be great.’”

She was.

Hargrove notched 316 wins in her 17 seasons and was named National Coach of the Year in 1987.

She didn’t just excel at basketball. Hargrove coached volleyball at Cowley for 13 years, served as the first-ever softball coach in ‘77, and was also the cheerleading sponsor.

From there, Hargrove jumped to Division I as head women’s basketball coach at Wichita State. Her success drew national attention.

“I had been with a couple of junior teams that had traveled to the Junior World Championships,” she said. “And then ‘90, I was with the USA Basketball senior team as an assistant coach. We won the World Championships then, and then we were that same staff stayed together then for the ‘92 Olympics.”

The 1992 women’s hoops team won bronze with Hargrove on the sidelines.

“That was kind of a dream come true for me because as an athlete in track, I went to the Olympic Trials,” she said. “I never could make the Olympic team, something I really, really wanted to do. And then heaven forbid, you know, I ended up being a coach in the Olympics. So that was really, really a very exciting time.”

Hargrove resigned from WSU in 1998 to serve as head coach of the ABL’s Colorado Xplosion.

When that league folded later that year, she was named head coach and GM of the newly formed Portland Fire in the WNBA.

“It was probably the most exciting time in my professional career because I went into a situation where there was nothing there,” she said. “So I got to draft and bring in the whole team, hire all of the staff there. We just had such a great support system there. The fans were unbelievable.”

She’d move to the Washington Mystics as a scout, and later assistant coach and GM, before retiring from hoops in 2008.

Every step of the way, Hargrove helped provide opportunities for women in sports, that she didn’t have.

“It’s been a little frustrating to think if I’d been born 50 years later, what my opportunities as an athlete could have been. But I’m very thankful for everything that’s happened,” Hargrove said. “I look back on my early days. I’d do camps and I talked to the little girls in camp about who did they look to as a role model in their sport. In the early days it was all men. I mean, the girls didn’t know about women playing. And then in my later years it was so rewarding because they would say Jackie Stiles, or Lisa Leslie, or Dawn Staley or somebody like that because they’ve seen them on television and they could relate to them. That meant a lot just to see the progression from the beginning to towards the end.”

But, she says, women’s sports have a long way to go.

“I appreciate where we started and where we are right now that there’s just a big, still a gap,” she said. “We just need to close that gap over the next, it may still take 10 more years or it may take 20 more years. I don’t know, but I think we’re definitely moving in the direction.”

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