Young, smart, cool, contemporary, that’s Courtney Banghart.
The last time women’s basketball meant as much to Carolina and the Chapel Hill community, Sylvia Hatchell had it going. She won a national championship in 1994 on a Charlotte Smith buzzer beater that had fans saying “back-to-back” after Dean Smith had won his last NCAA title the year before.
After reaching consecutive Final Fours in 2006 and 2007, the program went sideways over the next 10 years, engulfed in controversy that included external and internal accusations that finally led to Hatchell’s “retirement” in 2019 when the Hall of Fame coach left with little or no fanfare after 33 years at the helm.
Carolina could have “stayed in the family” – a tradition that often led to the wrong promotions or hires. Bubba Cunningham, who is not a UNC graduate, had been here long enough to know women’s basketball needed a clean break and fresh start.
For the man who brought back Mack Brown and elevated Hubert Davis, his hire of Banghart from Princeton flew under the radar and is still there to a degree. But it is safe to say it was a home run with more at-bats coming with (wo)men on base. Banghart is a young 44 with a degree from Dartmouth where she is still the school’s all-time leading 3-point shooter.
She seems smart well beyond an Ivy League education and cool enough to have a genuine love affair with the players she inherited and has since brought in. And she knows everything social media, style of dress, the lingo and the latitude youngsters need to feel safe and secure.
Under her, attendance and season ticket sales have risen steadily.
And, what counts the most when you are big-time college coach, she is a winner on the court (2022 Sweet 16), can recruit and handles complexities like NIL and finds ways to enjoy time off the court with her players, such as whitewater rafting and other opportunities to build togetherness.
She seemed prepared for all of that, which is why she wanted to coach in the ACC and “go for it” every season on the national stage and not be satisfied as an Ivy League icon.
Banghart is married with three young kids and lives in a private, upscale neighborhood, where they are one of the cul-de-sac families and all socialize when she has time.
With a sister already here, she thought she knew where she was moving; it became her biggest surprise, saying, “I didn’t put enough weight on that, the traffic, the weather. I undersold how much I would love it.”
Featured image via UNC Athletic Communications/Anthony Sorbellini
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