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Nancy Darsch, original Liberty head coach, dies at 68

Nancy Darsch coached the :Liberty in the WNBA's

Nancy Darsch coached the :Liberty in the WNBA's inaugural game against the Los Angeles Sparks in 1997.  Credit: Newsday/Bruce Gilbert

Nancy Darsch, the first head coach in Liberty history, has passed away, the team announced on Tuesday morning.

Darsch was 68. The Associated Press reported that Darsch had Parkinson’s disease and died Monday in her hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Darsch was the head coach when the Liberty played the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA’s inaugural game on June 21, 1997 at the Forum in Inglewood, California. The Liberty won the game, 67-57. Darsch led the Liberty to a 17-11 record during the 1997 season. The Liberty were the Eastern Conference champions in 1997, losing to the Houston Comets in the title game. Darsch also coached the Liberty in 1998, finishing that season with an 18-12 record.

"We are grateful for Nancy’s leadership as a pioneer of this game," the Liberty said in a statement. "Her contributions to the advancement of both collegiate and professional women’s basketball, and her passion for the game will forever be felt."

Darsch was coach of the Washington Mystics in 1999 and 2000, going 21-31 in those seasons. She also was an assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm.

"We are saddened to hear about the passing of Nancy Darsch," the WNBA said in a statement released on its social media accounts. "Nancy has left an indelible mark on the game of basketball and lent her passion and love to the WNBA in its formative years. For that we owe her a debt of gratitude. Our hearts go out to Nancy’s family and friends."

Darsch was a successful college coach before coming to the WNBA. She served as an assistant coach under Pat Summitt at Tennessee from 1978-85. Darsch was the coach at Ohio State from 1986-97, finishing with a 234-125 record. She led the Buckeyes to the 1993 NCAA national championship game, losing to Texas Tech. Former Liberty coach Katie Smith was a freshman on that Ohio State team.

Darsch was also an assistant coach at Boston College in between her stops with the Lynx and Storm.

She was an assistant coach with the U.S. women’s basketball teams in the 1984 and ’96 Olympics. Both teams won gold medals.

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