UPDATE: Although the Denver Pioneers season ended last month with a disappointing loss in the summit league quarterfinal, their record does not diminish the overall achievement of the team’s new head coach, Doshia Woods. We’re sharing her story again for Lesbian Visibility Week.
In December 2020, Woods talked with Hoopfeed about her efforts to “live authentic and free” for herself and for her wife, Denver assistant coach Lindsay Werntz, as well as being a relatable role model:
“I think I learned that people genuinely don’t care, especially once they get to know you. I’m a person. I have all these different intersections. I identify as black, female, gay, all of these different areas… I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on one part of who we are.”
We look forward to following up with Coach Woods as she looks forward to her next season at DU.
ORIGINAL REPORT Nov. 26, 2020: Four months after being named to lead the University of Denver Pioneers women’s basketball team, Doshia Woods scored a sweet victory Wednesday in her debut as a Division I head coach.
“As a first time head coach in a pandemic, I felt that was a positive for me personally,” Woods told Outsports after the game, played in an empty Clune Arena at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. “The pandemic has allowed me to be patient and calm.”
That patience and calmness must have spread to her players, who soared to victory over the Air Force Falcons, 72-to-56 in their season opener.
“It’s always nice getting the first one out of the way,” said Woods, who has 19 years’ experience as an assistant coach. “I’m really proud of the way our players competed.”
The Pioneers celebrated in the visitors locker room following the victory, and DU’s chancellor captured that moment of “joy and hope” in a tweet.
Joy and hope expressed by our @UofDenver @DU_WHoops Women's Basketball student athletes on their first win of the season! Special congratulations to Dosha Woods @doshwoods on her first game and first win! pic.twitter.com/2MErLhXEcH— Jeremy Haefner (@DU_chancellor) November 26, 2020
Denver hit 45.1% from the field while Air Force shot 31.8%, making only 2-of-22 shots from 3-point range, according to The Gazette.
The Pioneers led 44-25 in the second quarter, and the Falcons closed a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter to just three points with 5:53 remaining. But then the Pioneers hitched their wagons and rode to victory on a 14-1 run.
One of the Falcons told the paper the outcome would have been entirely different had they only attacked the Denver zone with penetration or entry passes, instead of settling for long attempts.
“That’s what the team wanted us to do,” said Air Force junior guard Briana Autrey-Thompson, who scored a game-high 25 points for the Falcons. “They tried to bait us into shooting, and we fell for it.”
“We want to get out and run, we did that in the first half,” Woods replied, when asked about Autrey-Thompson’s post-game comment. “They made some adjustments in the 3Q but we kept our composure and finished strong.”
As for standouts, Woods told Outsports two Pioneer players came to mind: “I thought [forward] Uju [Ezeudu] provided us with a great spark of the bench!” she said, adding: “[Guard] Meghan Boyd set the tone for us early.” Boyd scored a career-high 20 points.
Just over a year ago, Woods attended Tulane’s Pride Night, the university’s third such event, and spoke with Outsports about its significance.
“Sports is a way to bring people together— that they can come as themselves and know that, for at least that night, there is something for them,” Woods told contributor Haley Videckis in 2019. “I think the visibility is so important. It makes you feel connected in a different way when you feel visible and you feel seen. I think that’s what a lot of people want, regardless of how they identify. They want to be seen.”
Woods and the Green Waves’ WBB coaching staff have produced six straight 20+ win seasons and earned seven straight postseason berths, including a trip to the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Just days before DU hired her away. Woods took part in a virtual conversation with four other out LGBTQ coaches about how to handle a player coming out to their team. Outsports partnered with GO! SPACE and the Equality Coaching Alliance in hosting the event.
“To be chosen to mentor, coach, encourage and inspire the young ladies in this program is a truly humbling experience,” Woods said in a statement when she was named head coach, a few days later. “The rich tradition of academic and athletic achievements at DU are a perfect fit. My experiences, preparation and hard work during my career have prepared me for this opportunity.”
Woods joins Vanderbilt’s Stephanie White as the only two out lesbian head coaches in women’s college basketball, as far as we know. Julie Shaw was head coach at La Verne until 2017.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been edited from a previously published version.