Former Stanford and US star Jennifer Azzi comes out as gay

In this March 19, 2016, file photo, San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi talks to her players during a first-round women's college basketball game against Stanford in the NCAA tournament in Stanford.

In this March 19, 2016, file photo, San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi talks to her players during a first-round women's college basketball game against Stanford in the NCAA tournament in Stanford. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — University of San Francisco coach and former Stanford and U.S. star Jennifer Azzi has come out as gay, announcing she is married to her top assistant, Blair Hardiek.

Azzi made the announcement Thursday night when she introduced Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts at the Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award ceremony in San Francisco. In 2011, Welts — then president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns — became the first senior sports executive to openly acknowledge he was gay.

“I, too, lived a long time not being 100 percent honest,” Azzi said Thursday night, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “Kind of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell kind of thing. And it’s so stupid. I don’t know why we do that, but we do that. I’m a college coach. Is it going to hurt me with recruiting? What are people going to think? And you are constantly worrying about those things. What I realized in watching Rick in his path and his journey is that there is nothing more powerful than living the truth. And the best thing I can do for my team is be authentic and true to myself.”

USF was aware of Azzi’s announcement and is offering its support.

“At USF, we respect the dignity of each person,” athletic director Scott Sidwell said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Friday after being asked about Azzi’s courage to come out. “We are a community of inclusive excellence. We have a commitment to Jennifer, to our students, our staff, women’s basketball program, and the athletics department.”

The sixth-year coach led the Dons (21-12) to a West Coast Conference tournament title and their first NCAA berth since 1997 before losing 85-58 to Stanford and Azzi’s former coach, Hall of Famer Tara VanDerveer.

The 47-year-old Azzi led Stanford to its first NCAA title in 1990 and was named Final Four MVP. She also played for VanDerveer on the 1996 Olympic team that won a gold medal in Atlanta.

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