The meteoric rise in popularity of women’s basketball engenders an exciting exuberance for sports fans all over America and abroad. Dawn Staley has done for the women’s college game what Deion Sanders is doing for football and HBCUS generally speaking. The multi-million dollar, lucrative contracts, widespread exposure and visibility through tv ads and commercials, consistent success in terms of overall won/loss record and public appeal offer a glimpse into their highly visible worlds. Intentional or not, many young, gifted people follow their remarkable careers with hopes of one day emulating, matching or exceeding their auspicious and successful examples.
The Westside Gazette discovered that Dillard High graduate, Courtney Parsons, a three time state champion who played under the late, great Marcia Pinder, is an assistant basketball coach at her alma mater, Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In a recent interview it became profoundly clear that we were speaking to a rising star in the coaching realm with an incredibly high ceiling.
WG: Tell us a little about your background growing up in Broward County.
Coach Parsons: I was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale FL. I went to Phyl’s Academy from pre-k to 4th grade. For 5th grade I went to Broward Estates, then to Parkway Middle School. I graduated from Dillard High School, attending all four years. I got my degree in Business Marketing with a concentration in Sales from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA.
WG: When did you develop an interest in basketball/sports generally?
I started playing sports at a very young age. I would say about 6 or 7.
WG: Who were influential persons in your life i.e., parents, coaches, et al ?
Coach Parsons: My family has been very supportive in my athletic career. My mother would take me to every practice, every meet, every game that she could. My sister Candace would often give me insight and advice on the game of basketball since she played. I had many great coaches through out my career. For instance, my travel ball coaches – Carlos and Tremayne. Also my high school coaches Marcia Pinder and George Adams. My travel ball coaches pushed me to go hard and be better every single day. Coach Carlos encouraged my game and believed in me when it seemed no else did. My high school coaches taught me the X’s and O’s behind the game, especially George Adams. I remember watching hours of film just to understand the minor details. He taught me how to be a leader and a floor general.
WG: What successes in high school/college did you experience as a player?
Coach Parsons: In high school I won 3 FHSAA Girls Basketball Championships. Out of those 3 we were invited to 2 Dick’s Sporting Goods National Tournaments. In College we won 3 regular season Championships and in 2018-2019 (my senior year) we finally won The SWAC Conference Championship, earning an invitation to play in the NCAA tournament (March Madness). So in total I have 6 championship rings.
WG: When did your coaching career begin and where, and is this your initial coaching position?
My coaching career began in 2020. Once I graduated, Coach Pinder asked me to help with the Dillard Program, mainly the middle school and junior varsity programs.
WG: What impact did Coach Pinder have on your personal and professional career? How did she inform or shape your decision to coach?
Coach Parsons: She is the one that really led me to coach. When she encouraged me to join, I initially thought I wasn’t ready since I was fresh out of college, but she didn’t take no for an answer. Coach Pinder is the sole reason for starting my coaching career, and I honestly can’t thank her enough. She saw something in me that I had no idea I had. And I only wish I could’ve learned a little bit more from her.
WG: Have you developed a philosophy that drives your coaching style?
Coach Parsons: As I played this game, I tried to learn as much as I can to grant myself and my team success. There are many factors at play, but before every game my mom always said “Play Hard, Play Smart”. It was so simple yet so profound because in order to be successful you can’t have one without the other. So that’s what drives my coaching style. I encourage my athletes to go hard and give it your all every play, while being able to think and make the right decisions.
WG: How do you deal with discipline/repeat offenders?
When handling discipline I think it’s important to first understand the mindset behind their action. Once I understand then I correct. If that doesn’t work then I move on to physical discipline (for example running or limited playing time).
WG: What are your specific responsibilities as an assistant coach, i. e., recruiting or scouting ?
Coach Parsons: I am responsible for academics and overall just making sure classes are taken care of. I also help with offense. I’ve had some recruiting responsibilities, but since this is my first year I’m shadowing my experienced co-workers and still learning the ends and outs.
WG: Most head coaches assigned specific in-game responsibilities to assistant coaches. Is that the case at Southern. If so, what are yours?
Coach Parsons: I am responsible for keeping stats and making suggestions for the offense. Also, as of late, I’ve been scouting the competition and understanding their new/ unknown sets during the game.
WG: Do you aspire to become a head collegiate or professional coach ?
Coach Parsons: Yes, that is definitely a goal of mine. I am learning so much thanks to our Head Coach Carlos Funches and assistants Jeremy Bonin and Marjoriette Cotton.
WG: What qualities are inherent in successful coaches from your perspective or experience?
Coach Parsons: From my experience it’s important to know your players’ and staff’s strengths and weaknesses and use them to your best ability. It’s important to have your philosophies and stand on them. Being able to have an identity that you and your team stand by and never falter on is paramount. Also, it’s important to have an open mind. You must be accepting of suggestions or ideas.
WG: Finally, how did you end up at Southern?
Coach Parsons: I was coaching AAU basketball and would often travel to these tournaments where college coaches attended. I ran into my college coaches at many different tournaments and would just have casual conversation with them and just catch up. I was caught by surprise when the head coach asked me if I would be interested in joining the staff. I felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I am so excited to see what my collegiate coaching career has in store.
And so are we. The community that nurtured, developed, protected and encouraged your personal well being and professional success hasn’t gone anywhere, and we will closely monitor your evolution as you mentor young people while continuing your climb up the ladder of success.