Howard University was in search of a new head coach for the women’s basketball team in 2015. Tiesha “Ty” Grace, with an extensive resume within the sport, was considered for the role. Grace held coaching expertise at every level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and a successful student-athlete career.
Grace worked as a Division I assistant coach at Seton Hall University and the United States Military Academy for a total of seven seasons before moving to the University of New Haven. Grace also contributed to the growth of two Second Team All-Big East picks and a member of the All-Big East Rookie Team. She spent most of her time working with Anne Donovan, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and an Olympic gold medalist.
Grace, a 1999 graduate of The University of New Haven, served as the head coach there, resulting in two consecutive high-achieving seasons. Grace led the team to two NCAA Division II tournament placements and won over 73 percent of her games (44-16). They also set a school record with 16 Northeast-10 Conference victories and made their first appearance in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in nearly three decades after defeating Stonehill College, which was ranked 13th, to win the East Region Championship.
Since her tenure began at Howard, she has elevated the program to the top echelons of the conference. Grace guided the Bison to a successful 12-4 record within the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and a 16-13 overall record during the 2016–17 season. Howard received the highest seed during Grace’s tenure, the No. 2 seed, in the 2017 MEAC tournament. The conference also honored Grace’s athletes as a result of her coaching. Due in part to her leadership, that year’s team included the 2017 Player of the Year and four All-MEAC honors.
Just five years later, in the 2021-22 season, the Bison won their first MEAC tournament title since 2001, after falling short to North Carolina A&T the year before. “When you look back, it was a great experience for our program,” Grace explained. “We were determined all season to not let that happen again.” Their MEAC title secured their spot in the NCAA tournament. Howard won its first NCAA tournament game against Incarnate Word in the inaugural First Four Round. Although the Lady Bison did not win the tournament, they were successful in their own terms. Grace was selected the Most Outstanding Coach of the NCAA tournament. Iyanna Warren (All-MEAC), Destiny Howell (All-MEAC), and Anzhane’ Hutton (All-MEAC, All-Defensive) all won conference postseason awards.
Grace ensured that the team would keep the same fire going for the 2022-23 season. Grace shared, “There is (a) feeling of confidence and determination on this team. We have a combination of veterans and young players who are focused on doing even better this season.” She praises her players for their unique skill sets on and off the court, while upholding her expectations of them. Nyla Cooper, a sophomore guard from Fayetteville, North Carolina, shared her experience on the team.
“I think over the past two years my confidence has gotten stronger by far. Coming out of high school to college was a big change and mentally tough for me last year. I realize with constant practice and hard work the confidence begins to show.” Cooper noted.
“Coach Ty had a large impact with that. She would constantly encourage me and that really helped me mentally that she had confidence in me.”
The women’s basketball team currently holds a 3-5 record, with an upcoming game against Towson University.
Grace wants the women’s basketball program at Howard to succeed and thoroughly counts on the assistance of the staff. In addition to Donnie Stith, an assistant coach in his fourth season; Jeanne-Marie Wilson, an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator in her second season, and Margaree King Richard, the director of basketball operations, who is also in her second season, Grace promoted Brian Davis to associate head coach. Grace shared her love for the staff saying, “We have great chemistry, and we work well together.”
A combination of effort from both the players and staff, with the knowledge and leadership of Coach Grace, has created a successful program that has the Lady Bison players and fans alike excited to see what comes next.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee