By Matt Vautour MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Matt Vautour reports, "As hiring women coaches becomes more common, college athletic directors and NBA front offices will be more open to hiring more women in the future. Each hire today gives tomorrow's candidates a better chance."
MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.
The hire came with relatively little fanfare but it was significant.
The Celtics added Kara Lawson to their coaching staff last week making her the first woman ever to hold that role in Boston.
She is the fourth woman assistant coach in the NBA. Because it happened on the eve of a much-anticipated free agency period that featured the last two finals MVPs and seemingly half the league potentially changing teams, no assistant coach hiring was going to move the needle.
But Lawson's hiring was significant. The next woman hired will be too. As hiring women coaches becomes more common, college athletic directors and NBA front offices will be more open to hiring more women in the future. Each hire today gives tomorrow's candidates a better chance.
Anyone who ever watched Lawson as a player or heard her call a game on ESPN knows she's intelligent and she clearly knows basketball.
But Lawson, Cleveland's Lindsay Gottleib, Dallas' Jenny Boucek and Becky Hammon, who has been a San Antonio assistant since 2014, are bringing basketball closer to an even bigger breakthrough. The question now is no longer if a woman will ever be the head coach of a men's team, it's when will it happen and for what team?
Whether it's in the NBA or men's Division I college, it will be an historic moment and it's coming. It's good for the sport from a social advancement standpoint but more practically it's good for the quality of basketball. Instead of recycling failed coaches into new jobs, it's infusing the game with a talent pool of new intelligent innovators.
Hammon, who has been the Spurs head coach in summer league, is still the best guess at who gets hired first. She's been an NBA assistant working under Greg Popovich, who is widely considered one of the best coaches of all time. That experience combined with her own intelligence and presence makes her qualified to lead a team now. She'd be the easiest hire to sell to an owner and a fan base, but she's certainly not the only capable woman out there.
Before 1972 and the widespread implementation of Title IX, it used to be that most women's teams were coached by women (90 percent) and men's teams, in college and pros, were coached by men. But the rise in stature of the women's game meant higher profile jobs with higher salaries and suddenly many men were competing for and getting jobs in the women's game. Since women almost never got jobs coaching men or boys at any level, the number of women coaches has gradually shrunk.
According to a report from Tides, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport, 59.6 percent of Division I women's basketball programs have women as head coaches and less than 50 percent of assistant coaches are women.
Women hold a mere handful of head coaching jobs in any men's sports in college and none in basketball or any other high profile sports.
This is a step toward gradually reversing that trend. The NBA sets trends across basketball and influences culture globally. It'll certainly trickle down to all levels of college and eventually high school as well.
There's an avalanche of capable waiting to follow. The hires so far have been mostly high-profile women. There's plenty of capable women coaching basketball, who didn't have the athleticism to play at a high level, but can certainly think the game.
Like with any trailblazer, the success of the first one will be critical. If a woman coach gets hired, handles the unavoidable microscope effectively and leads an NBA team to the playoffs or a college team to the NCAA Tournament, doors will open for other women. That makes having the right situation -- confident and committed bosses, strong roster potential etc. -- important.
But now it's simply a matter of time. History isn't far off.
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