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Cabinet Member Turned President, Turned Basketball Coach



Photo by Kiarra Delouis

President Sylvia Mathews Burwell coached the American University women's basketball team to a 66-50 victory against Boston University Wednesday night.

The former Secretary of Health and Human Services is not unfamiliar with the sport. She played basketball in high school and during her Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University in England. But Wednesday night's game was Burwell's first time serving as a guest coach at AU.

Burwell sat on the bench between the coaching staff and student-athletes, keeping her composure and smiling supportively throughout the game.

"I'm thrilled to be here and to be able to support our women's basketball team, as well as our athletes overall," Burwell said at a post-game press conference. "It's something we're very proud of — proud of our women both on the court and off the court."

The Eagles started the game off with jump shots and easy points, leaving them with a comfortable 53-39 lead by the end of the third quarter.

"You saw tonight what they do on the court — which you may not see all the time — and it's what they do off the court, with an incredibly high GPA across all of our athletics," said Burwell.

Coach Megan Gebbia was also satisfied with the team's performance. "It was a team effort on the offensive end and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do with the confidence that we have moving forward," she said.

Burwell coached the AU Eagles as part of the basketball team's "Guest Coach" program. 

"Our players were excited when I told them [President Burwell would be a guest coach] and they wanted some face time with her," said Gebbia.

"It's a great program because it's important for other people, who aren't in athletics, to see what our players go through on a daily basis, and how much planning and strategy goes into games and how detail-oriented we are," Gebbia said.


Photo by Kiarra Delouis

"I think people who go through [the guest coach] program recognize the team chemistry we have, the love for each other we have, and the family we are trying to continue to promote and have people see, and want to be a part of. So the more people we have on the bench with us, the better. And hopefully, they come back and support us throughout the season."

Hailing from Finland, junior Elina Koskimies is a 6-foot-tall guard on the women's basketball team.

"My teammates did a good job at finding me on the perimeter, so it's easy to shoot when the ball comes at the right time," said Koskimies. "[Boston University] didn't really guard me that tight so I just shot it. Overall, we had some rough patches, but we grinded it out and we always find a way to win."

Koskimies is excited about hosting more guest coaches, which the team has been doing since the 1990s, reported The Washington Post. "I think it's very nice that they come and continue to support us, and it shows us that the whole university is excited about what we do here. They always give some good comments about the game, too" said Koskimies.

Now on a seven-game winning streak, AU's women's basketball team is 13-4 overall, with a record of 6-0 in the Patriot League. The Eagles recently had an overtime win against Penn State.

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