THE FLATS – Georgia Tech athletics mourns the loss of former women’s basketball associate head coach Tasha Butts, who passed away on Monday after a brave two-year battle with breast cancer. Butts was a star player, nationally-recognized assistant coach and first-year head coach at Georgetown University before her passing at age 41.
“The news of Tasha’s passing is incredibly sad,” commented head coach Nell Fortner. “Tasha was so instrumental to the success of this program. What she did as a member of this coaching staff cannot be overvalued. She was tough – tough on her kids, tough in her expectations, but yet she was soft underneath when players needed her to be there for them, and she was always there for them. We are incredibly sad this day has come. She battled from the day of her diagnosis. We are proud of her fight to the end. We will forever love Tasha. She will forever be missed.”
Butts was announced as the 11th head coach at Georgetown University on April 11, 2023 after a long coaching and professional WNBA career. She served four years at Georgia Tech under head coach Nell Fortner, arriving in April 2019 as an assistant coach. She was promoted to associate head coach in April 2021.
In four years with the Yellow Jackets, Butts helped guide Georgia Tech to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, two 20-plus win campaigns, nine wins over ranked opponents and the program’s highest outright Atlantic Coast Conference finish in program history at No. 3 in 2021.
During the 2021-22 season, Georgia Tech spent 14 weeks in the national rankings, climbing as high as No. 11 in the Associated Press poll. The Yellow Jackets recorded a marquee win in 2021 when they defeated No. 3/2 UConn, 57-44, in McCamish Pavilion, snapping the Huskies’ 240-game winning streak against unranked opponents. The win marked Tech’s first over a top-three opponent since 2009. The Yellow Jackets capped the season by making their second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Butts helped Georgia Tech to a 2020-21 season meant for the record books as the Yellow Jackets made their 10th overall NCAA Tournament appearance and advanced to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in program history. The Yellow Jackets finished third in the ACC to earn the program’s highest seeding in the ACC Tournament at No. 3.
Off the court, Butts was selected to the ABIS Women’s Basketball Black College Coaches Watch List in 2023 and was the recipient of the 2023 Giant Steps Award as an individual who has shown courage, heroism, triumph amid adversity and community activism through the power of sport.
A Georgia native, Butts returned to the Peach State after eight years as an assistant coach at LSU. During her eight seasons at LSU, Butts was part of four 20-win seasons and six NCAA Tournament appearances highlighted by back-to-back Sweet 16 runs in 2012 and 2013. She helped ink three top-20 recruiting classes (2011, 2017, 2019), while signing seven top-100 prospects, including a McDonald’s All-American in 2017. In eight seasons at LSU, Butts coached and mentored six all-SEC academic honor roll recipients and developed seven all-SEC selections.
Prior to her stint at LSU, Butts recorded three successful seasons (2008-11) as an assistant coach at UCLA. The Bruins reached the NCAA Tournament twice, compiling a 72-26 overall mark and second-place finishes in the Pac-10 Conference in both 2010 and 2011. The 2010-11 season was one for the record books as the Bruins set records for regular-season victories (26), Pac-10 win (16) and scoring defense (55.3 points per game), while earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
During the 2007-08 season, Butts served as an assistant coach at Duquesne University where her responsibilities included recruiting, opponent scouting, academics, equipment liaison, scheduling and development of perimeter players.
A four-year letterwinner at Tennessee, Butts helped the Lady Vols to a 124-17 record from 2000-04. Tennessee made a run to the Sweet 16 her freshman campaign and advanced to the 2002 Final Four in her sophomore season. She then helped the Lady Vols to back-to-back National Championship games her junior and senior seasons (2003, 2004). As a senior, Butts earned All-SEC Second Team honors after averaging 10.4 points per game and ranking second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (43.0).
Additionally, Butts was part of four SEC regular season championship teams, as Tennessee compiled a 55-1 SEC record in her four years. She left UT ranked fourth all-time in games played (141) and tied for seventh in three-point shots made (103). Butt’s career-high 37 points against Vanderbilt on Feb. 16, 2004, tied for 11th on the Lady Vols’ single-game scoring list.
Butts graduated from Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in sports management while minoring in business administration in 2004. She was chosen by the Minnesota Lynx with the 20th selection in the 2004 WNBA Draft and saw action in all 30 games as a rookie, helping the club equal a franchise record with 18 wins and earn a spot in the playoffs.
Following the 2004 WNBA season, she returned to her alma mater and served as a graduate assistant coach with Pat Summitt. The Lady Vols won the 2005 SEC Championship that season and advanced to the Final Four.
Butts played overseas in fall 2005 for Essa/Barreiro in Portugal, averaging nearly 18.0 points per game. The following season, she played for Raanana Hertizliya in Israel, where she scored 15.5 points per game. Butts also played briefly with the Charlotte Sting and Houston Comets of the WNBA.
Off of the court, Butts was one of just 14 assistant coaches from around the country chosen to participate in Advocates for Athletic Equity’s (AAE) annual “Achieving Coaching Excellence” Professional Development Program for basketball coaches in June 2016. In her first year at Georgia Tech, Butts was selected to participate in the 2020 Women Coaches NEXT UP program. Butts was selected among a competitive field by the WBCA and Women Leaders in College Sports to participate in the program. She has also served as a WBCA mentor.
A native of Milledgeville, Georgia, Butts attended Baldwin High School where she was a consensus All-American and the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. She remains the all-time leading scorer at the school and her high school jersey No. 23 was retired in December 2000. In August 2004, the city of Milledgeville honored Butts with a key to the city and a proclamation of achievement on “Tasha Butts Day.”
She is survived by her parents, Spencer, Sr., and Evelyn, her brother Spencer, Jr., and her nephew Marquis along with an extended family and the entire women’s basketball community.
The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Georgia Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of developing Georgia Tech’s Everyday Champions and helping the Yellow Jackets compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.