Former WNBA player and longtime college basketball coach Tasha Butts has died after battling metastatic breast cancer for two years. She was 41.
Butts’ death was announced by the athletic department at Georgetown University, where she was the first-year head coach of the women’s basketball team.
Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said, “I am heartbroken for Tasha’s family, friends, players, teammates and colleagues. When I met Tasha, I knew she was a winner on the court, and an incredible person whose drive, passion and determination was second to none. She exhibited these qualities both as a leader and in her fight against breast cancer. This is a difficult time for the entire Georgetown community, and we will come together to honor her memory.”
Butts had an extensive coaching history, dating back to 2007 at Duquesne University. She also spent time at UCLA, eight years at Louisiana State University, and four years at Georgia Tech, where her most recent role had been as associate head coach.
Midway through her tenure at Georgia Tech, she announced she’d been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
She shared the news in December 2021, saying, “In November, I was diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer. While I am still processing this life-changing diagnosis and learning how to deal with it day-to-day, I have full confidence in my team of doctors with the treatment plan they have put forth and that I have already begun. The tremendous amount of support I have received from my family, close friends, and Georgia Tech family has made these past few weeks a little more bearable and easier.”
At just 39 at the time, she said she wasn’t expecting such a diagnosis, but she was determined to be an example and inspiration for others going through the same thing. Her battle inspired the #TashaStrong and #TashaTough hashtags, with her athletes often donning shirts emblazoned with the latter.
After her diagnosis, she continued to shape those athletes on and off the court, with Georgia Tech making an appearance in the NCAA tournament during the 2021-2022 season. She was no stranger to the tournament, having made it to three Final Fours with the University of Tennessee when she herself was a student athlete. This helped propel her to a short stint in the WNBA, spending time with the Minnesota Lynx, Charlotte Sting, and Houston Comets.
Her alma mater, where she averaged 6.4 points per game, also shared a tribute to Butts.
UT head coach Kellie Harper said, “Our program is heartbroken to lose a member of our Lady Vol sisterhood much, much too soon. Tasha was the type of person who connected with people everywhere she went. She had such a positive impact not only on our Tennessee family but on women’s basketball as a whole. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of her family and friends during this extremely difficult time.”
Butts is survived by her basketball community, her parents, her brother, and her nephew.