Barbara Farris – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
St. Martin’s Episcopal/Tulane University/WNBA
Dobee Plaisance was coaching a girls’ AAU team in the summer of 1991. She knew she had something special in an awkward 6-2 13-year old named Barbara Farris.
“I thought she could have the opportunity to play at the next level and maybe even the level after that,” said Plaisance. The coach was right on the money. Farris went from St. Martin’s to Tulane University to the WNBA to traveling the world in summer ball.
The dream started watching TV with her father, Alvin. “He loved to watch the Lakers.” says Farris. “I was a big fan of the Georgetown Hoyas.”
During her three years playing for Plaisance at St. Martin’s (1991-94), Farris was a two-time all-Louisiana high school player as she led her team to back-to-back state titles as well as a perfect record when she was a junior.
For college, she chose to stay home and became one of the greatest female athletes in Tulane history. “I loved my time at Tulane,” says Farris. “I loved every minute of it.”
Farris led the Green Wave to one of their most successful eras in the school’s basketball history as head coach Lisa Stockton’s team played in four consecutive NCAA tournaments and posted an 88-32 record. Averaging 16.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in her career, Farris is the only player in Tulane history to achieve all-conference accolades for four straight years.
A WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-American in her junior year, Farris led the Wave to a 27-5 record, the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles, and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. She was named to the All-Conference USA all-tournament team and she was named first team All-C-USA at the season’s end.
Barbara Farris and her family at the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Banquet. Photo by Wally Porter.
Farris scored 1,729 points (sixth all-time as of 2020) in her Tulane career (1994-98) while starting 114 games. She still holds the school’s all-time career field goal percentage record (660-of-1035, .637) and she ranks among the best in Green Wave history in career rebounds (939, fourth), offensive rebounds (351, third), defensive rebounds (588, fourth), free throws made (408, fourth) and free throws attempted (684, third).
Following her Green Wave career, she went into the professional ranks, playing overseas and in the ABL before launching her 10-year WNBA career with the Detroit Shock in 2000. After playing her first six seasons for Detroit, Farris joined the New York Liberty for the 2006 and 2007 campaigns, followed by one year with the Phoenix Mercury before returning to Detroit in 2009.
She played in more than 280 games and helped her teams advance to the playoffs five times. Her Detroit team won the WNBA Championship under Coach Bill Laimbeer in 2003.
Plaisance was glued to the TV for that one, rooting for her former star. “I swear, the confetti was still falling when she called me and thanked me.” says Plaisance. “That is so typical of Barbara, thinking of somebody else even then.”
Kari Pardoe, who was working in the Pistons/Shock community relations department, put Farris’s “thinking of somebody else” into another perspective. Their paths crossed when Farris volunteered for the team’s outreach projects.
“She visited cancer patients at the hospital,” said Pardoe. “She helped a needy family for Christmas. Typical of Barbara, she didn’t just give them money, she went shopping for them and helped wrap the gifts and put them under the tree.”
The two joined a team mission to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “I was in shock,’ says Farris, “All of those families sitting in the heat waiting for help. My family was okay. I asked myself ‘Why me? Why am I so lucky?’”
Farris’s professional basketball career carried her world-wide. In addition to her playing time domestically, she spent three winter seasons in France, three in Spain and one in South Korea as well as playing half-seasons in Greece, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
After two years as an assistant coach with the Liberty, Farris started her prep coaching career as an assistant at Bonnabel High School for the 2009-10 season. She began a 10-year run as the head coach at John Curtis Christian School the following year. During that time, she won five LHSAA state championships with the Patriots, including four straight to close her tenure (2017-20). She compiled a record of 279-54 in those 10 years.
“Those young ladies I coached these past 10 years, and this past year especially, have changed me for the better as a person,” Farris told Nola.com. “I really do appreciate them. I don’t have children, but they were like my own. You spend so much time in the classroom and workouts and practice with these kids and you know all their little personalities and quirks and when they are having an off day. So I get sad when I think about not having that time and investment in them anymore.”
She left John Curtis in 2020 to go into the collegiate coaching ranks as an assistant coach at Stetson University in Florida.
She was inducted into the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Barbara has had a tremendous influence on girls’ basketball in the New Orleans area,” Stockton said. “Her accomplishments as a high school, college and professional player, as well as a high school coach, are unmatched. We are so proud to have been a part of Barbara’s journey.”
Story submitted by Bill Curl of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee. Updated March 2021.