Katrina Merriweather – the first African American to lead the University of Memphis women’s basketball Tigers – has a track record with “firsts.”
The former Wright State University (WSU) head coach was named the Tigers’ new coach on Monday (March 29) succeeding Melissa McFerrin, who retired amid the 2020-21 season.
Merriweather guided her Wright State teams to three straight NCAA appearances, a first for the program. In this year’s NCAA tournament, the No. 13-seeded Wright State team knocked off No. 4 Arkansas. It was the first time WSU had won a NCAA tournament game.
The Tigers logged a 4-15 record this past season, their fifth straight losing campaign. At her media debut on Monday, Merriweather acknowledged that the UofM program has experienced “some bumps basketball-wise” with several contributing factors.
The winner of three Horizon league championships at Wright State, Merriweather said she plans to build upon the integrity of the Memphis program, including what has been accomplished in the community and in the classroom.
While the Memphis area historically has produced talented players, many have not chosen to play at the University of Memphis. Merriweather’s goals include getting more of that talent pool to stay at home.
Recruiting in a pandemic has been tough for coaches. And, new NCAA rules allowing college athletes to transfer and become immediately eligible has changed the college hoops landscape.
“I think you have a track record of taking care of kids and being able to hold people accountable; that is what everybody wants,” Merriweather said on recruiting players. “I have a lot of support in sports, whether it is high schools or AAU, that know who I am as a person. They will easily tell young people that this is a great place to be.”
Merriweather has a deep basketball pedigree. She encouraged her famous and successful AAU-coaching father, Keith Merriweather, who won the very first Nike summer league title, to switch from coaching AAU-level boys teams to guiding girls teams.
A successful player at the University of Cincinnati, Merriweather has played at the Tigers’ Elma Roane Field House. She envisions reaching out to former Memphis players for help in growing the program to the next level.
Fresh off of coaching the men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament title, Tigers’ head coach Penny Hardaway, who attended Merriweather’s debut, said, “I think we are headed in the right direction. …
“No knock on coach McFerrin,” said Hardaway. “I understand with a new coach the city is buzzing. The players around town are excited. The players here are excited. I think great things are about to happen.”
Hardaway spoke to the university now having African Americans as head coaches guiding its basketball programs.
“She is making history. That is a lot of weight on her shoulders,” Hardaway said. “To have an African-American female coach along here with me, I think that is special. I think these kids are going to look at that and be inspired.”
A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Merriweather pledged to do the things it takes to become a real Memphian. She even mentioned the wings on Beale Street and how friends are looking forward to visiting the city and sampling the Bluff City’s great food.