Women’s History Month and Afterbuzz salute Women Coaches who are trailblazing the NBA

Written by: Alexandria Jordan – March 12th 2020, 11:30am pst

Over the past couple of years, the NBA has been breaking barriers by bringing more women to the forefront instead of being behind-the-scenes. Even though Basketball is a genderless sport, it’s no secret that it has been mainly dominated by males since forever. However, over the past couple of years, the NBA has been welcoming female coaches with open arms. Currently, there are 11 female assistant coaches in the NBA. In honor of Women’s Month, lets take a look at the women coaches who have been trailblazing the NBA.

Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs)

credit: associated press

“My job is to be the best that I can be, and if that changes your mind then great, but I can’t be consumed with how you feel about me.”-Becky Hammon

Hammon was named the assistant coach for the Spurs in 2014. She was the first woman to hold a full-time coaching position in the NBA. Earlier in her career, Hammon was an elite point guard for the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars. She also represented the Russian national team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In 2013, after suffering from a torn ACL, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, invited Hammon to sit in on several Spurs’ practices. Soon after, her impeccable knowledge of basketball landed her the position of first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA.

Lindsey Harding (Sacramento Kings)

credit: associated press

“I don’t think about being a trailblazer. But when I saw that I made Beyoncé’s list, that’s when it hit me- I have young girls, in high school or college or even younger, saying, ‘I want to have a career in the NBA. I want to coach or be in the front office.’ When I was their age — I just didn’t see it.”- Lindsey Harding

The Philadelphia 76ers hired Harding right before the 2018-19 season making her the first black woman to become a full-time NBA scout. Harding was promoted to player development coach, making her the Sixers’ first female assistant coach. She then joined Luke Walton’s staff after the Kings hired her as an assistant coach and a player development coach. She adds over a decade of basketball experience at the professional level as a player and coach. Along with playing in the WNBA for nine years, Harding also played internationally in Turkey, Lithuania, Russia, and participated in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Also, in honor of Black History Month, Beyonce’ highlighted her fellow Texas native, Harding, in her collage of 48 Black men and women who inspire her.

Niele Ivey (Memphis Grizzlies)

credit: associated press

“I’m not here just because they wanted a female or African-American female on staff but because I have the résumé to prove that I know this game.”- Niele Ivey

Before becoming Memphis Grizzlies’ female assistant, Ivey served 12 years as an associate head coach and recruiting coordinator under Notre Dame’s head coach, Muffet McGraw. Additionally, she also played for the Fighting Irish for 5 years, guiding them to their first national championship in 2001. Ivey has been a part of all of the nine Final Four appearances.

Brittni Donaldson (Toronto Raptors)

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“My experience is just a little bit different. I bring a unique side and perspective to the coaching staff. It’s not always the number of years you put in, just maybe the different types of lenses you’ve seen the game through.”- Brittni Donaldson

Just this past year, Donaldson, at the age of 26, became an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors, making her the youngest assistant coach in the NBA. Taking an unusual path into the NBA, Donaldson was promoted from data analyst in the team’s front office to assistant coach. She had aspirations of playing professionally before suffering knee injuries after playing four seasons at the University of Northern Iowa. Although not a star in college nor the WNBA and with no significant coaching experience, Donaldson has shown that the unconventional paths into the NBA that have been open to men are starting to open for women.

Jenny Boucek (Dallas Mavericks)

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“This is something that we’re earning and that’s legitimate. It’s not just trendy. We should not accept positions that we’re not qualified for or expect to not have to work our way up and earn it.”- Jenny Boucek

Jenny Boucek was hired as the Sacramento Kings’ assistant coach for player development in 2017. Soon after, Boucek decided to try in vitro fertilization. Ultimately becoming pregnant by winter, Boucek was torn between starting a family and her NBA career. She vowed that she wouldn’t travel until her child was at least 6 months old. Although the Kings’ wanted to keep her, two other NBA teams expressed interest in Boucek as an assistant coach. Just weeks before giving birth to her daughter, Boucek was hired as a coach for the Dallas Mavericks, making her the first female coach in the history of the Dallas Mavericks. She also played for and coached in the WNBA.

Karen Stack Umlauf (Chicago Bulls)

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“Some of the male season ticket holders, they’ll come up and say, ‘I’m with my daughter and she wanted to say hello to you,’ and it just means a lot to them to see, ‘Hey, you can do this, too. This is very real.’- Karen Stack Umlauf

After playing one season of professional basketball overseas, Stack Umlauf got a job selling tickets in the marketing department for the Chicago Bulls. She eventually landed her way to a front office position. More than three decades later, Stack Umlauf became the Bull’s first female assistant coach. Stack Umlauf has been through it all with the Bulls, from Michael Jordan’s rookie years to six NBA championships. She credits Jim Boylen, the current Bull’s head coach, as her mentor.

Natalie Nakase (LA Clippers)

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“It’s been a dream of mine to coach in the NBA [and] eventually be a head coach in the NBA. It’s a stepping stone Doc Rivers gave me the opportunity to do. I’m blessed he gave me the opportunity.”- Natalie Nakase

In 2012, Nakase began her career in the NBA when she accepted an intern position with the Clippers’ video department, in which she eventually became a video coordinator. She soon became the assistant coach of the LA Clipper’s G League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, and was the first female coach to sit on an NBA team’s bench. Last year, she was promoted to the player development staff. Nakase also played for UCLA and was the first Asian American to play in the National Women’s Basketball League, where she played professionally for two seasons. She was also the first female head coach in men’s pro basketball in Japan’s professional league with the Saitama Broncos.

Teresa Weatherspoon (New Orleans Pelicans)

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“It’s still basketball. It just so happens to be that I’m female, they’re male. As an athlete, I don’t just see male. I don’t just see female. I see the athlete.”- Teresa Weatherspoon

Weatherspoon is the second WNBA legend to join the New Orleans Pelicans this offseason. She was brought in as a two-way player development coach. Previously, Weatherspoon worked as the Director of Player and Franchise Development for the WNBA’s New York Liberty. She also played seven seasons for the New York Liberty, making five All-Star teams. Along with being the head coach of her alma mater Louisiana Tech University for six seasons, this elite athlete was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Kristi Toliver (Washington Wizards)

Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

“I grew up in the NBA. I want everyone to know that I love and respect the NBA game. This isn’t by chance.”- Kristi Toliver
Most professional athletes go into the coaching profession after years of playing, but Toliver took the more uncommon route by becoming a coach while still playing professional ball. Toliver was hired as an assistant coach by the Washington Wizards, while still being a rostered WNBA player for the Washington Mystics. Ultimately making Toliver the first active WNBA player to hold a coaching position in the NBA.

Lindsay Gottlieb (Cleveland Cavaliers)

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“What it means for women, and what it means career-wise, I felt like I had to do it”- Lindsay Gottlieb
Gottlieb was the head coach of the women’s basketball team at UC Berkeley for eight years before she accepted the assistant coaching position with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although she played very little during her college career, she was very knowledgeable on analytically based strategies and drawing up plays on the whiteboard. In fact, Gottlieb had been watching NBA games for years and duplicating the sets for her Cal players.

Kara Lawson (Boston Celtics)

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“My mind-set is being the first to do something is great. I want to be the best. I don’t want to be the best of my gender, I want to be the best in the league. I don’t like qualifiers when it comes to judging things. Every time somebody talks about me, I don’t want it to be about my gender, at least when it comes within the confines of a competitive environment.”

Lawson is the first female assistant coach in the history of the Boston Celtics. Lawson had a 13-year WNBA career with the Sacramento Monarchs and was a member of the gold medal-winning US Olympic team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In addition to her impressive resume, she was also a broadcaster, analyst, and an adviser for USA Basketball’s 3-on-3 teams.

The NBA is certainly recognizing what women bring to the table. Women are impacting the league more than ever and bringing their unique experiences with them. It seems like the best man for the job may not even be a man..it just may be a woman….hmmm.

About The Author:

Alexandria Jordan is an on-air host and red carpet correspondent with AfterBuzz TV and Black Hollywood Live. She is passionate about all things entertainment and loves connecting with people who share similar interests.

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