Although her former players include members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Olympians and Division I NCAA tournament champions, Barbara Thaxton began her coaching career right here in Connecticut, as the first girls' basketball coach at Wilbur Cross High School, in New Haven (1974-82).
Under Barbara’s direction, the Governors won three straight Class L state championships from 1978-80 and earned 53 straight victories. Two of her players, Tracy Claxton and Karen Draughn, earned high school All-America recognition, and also are members of the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Claxton finished her career with 2,420 points, a Connecticut record at the time. She went on to be named Final Four MVP when her Old Dominion University team won the 1985 national championship. During Draughn’s college career, she led Cheney State, under then-coach C. Vivian Stringer, to two Final Fours.
“Throughout my years at Wilbur Cross, I was fortunate to have a number of outstanding young ladies who were also very skilled, hardworking players,” said Barbara, who taught math at the school and finished her coaching tenure there with a record of 117-38.
` Those players helped Wilbur Cross win the 1978 state championship over South Windsor 66-51, then added titles in 1979, beating Lyman Hall 67-60, and 1980 with a 73-53 victory over Hillhouse. Barbara was named the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Girls' Basketball Coach of the Year in 1980, and in 2012 her entire 1978 team was inducted into the Wilbur Cross Hall of Fame.
In 1982, Barbara began the first of five seasons as assistant coach of the women's Old Dominion program. The Monarchs reached the Final Four twice, and with the efforts of Claxton, reunited with her former high school coach, they won 1985 title, beating the University of Georgia.
Barbara also coached future Naismith Hall of Famer, Olympian and WNBA coach, Anne Donovan at Old Dominion. Her coaching career continued as she served as an assistant at Penn, Southern California, South Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley. While at Southern Cal, the Trojans made three NCAA tournament appearances, where Barbara helped to recruit another future Hall of Famer, Lisa Leslie. A member of the Women's Basketball Coaches' Association, Barbara was later hired by the WNBA as a talent scout and evaluator.
“Thanks to the many great players I coached at Wilbur Cross High School and on the collegiate level, numerous doors opened for me to travel associated with my basketball responsibilities,” Barbara said. “Consequently, I have traveled to 47 of the 50 states, as well as to 22 foreign countries.”
Barbara, retired and living in Raleigh, N.C., graduated from both Finley Senior High School in Chester, S.C., where she was an all-state forward, and South Carolina State University. She earned her master's degree in urban education from Southern Connecticut State University. Her state championships with the Governors, winning the NCAA title at Old Dominion and traveling to Kenya in 2005 for the Hoops for Africa program, are among her fondest basketball memories. Barbara has three children, Hayward, Michael and Monique, and five grandchildren, Armani, Sanaa, Hayley, Jonah and Grace.
Barbara Thaxton was the first Girls’ Basketball Head Coach at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, where her teams won three consecutive CT State Championships in 1978, 1979, and 1980. Two of her players, Tracey Claxton and Karen Draughn, earned All-American honors and eventually led their college teams to NCAA Final Fours.
She continued to teach and coach at Wilbur Cross, and was an assistant coach at Wesleyan before moving to Old Dominion University and a National Championship in 1985. Barbara’s career included positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Univ. of Southern California, Univ. of California at Berkeley, and the Univ. of South Carolina. She was chosen as one of five coaches on the first ever asst. coaches speaking panel at the Final Four, and was later hired as a talent scout by the WNBA.
Barbara’s presenter is Hall of Famer Tracy Claxton. Tracy was a member of Barbara’s state championship team at Wilbur Cross and a member of Barbara’s national championship team at Old Dominion.