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Sports Authority

Berry: The NBA needs a female head coach

| Friday, April 20, 2018

In basketball, there’s a saying, “game recognizes game and you’re looking unfamiliar,” which simply means it takes a great player to recognize a great player, and any player outside of a certain level of greatness is deemed “unfamiliar.”

While great players have been able to recognize other great players regardless of gender, the ability to recognize greatness hasn’t passed down to coaches. Great coaches haven’t always recognized great coaching, especially those of opposite gender. Female coaches, especially in basketball, have historically been “outside of the bubble,” despite attaining accomplishments that rival those of NBA coaches. The biggest injustice given to female coaches is that they are classified as a good “female basketball coaches,” not a good basketball coaches. Given their talents and knowledge of the game, it is time to realize that basketball is the same game whether men or women are playing or coaching it.

LeBron James agrees with me. According to James, knowledge of the game, not gender is the most important aspect of evaluating a coach.

“At the end of the day, basketball … it’s not about male or female. You know the game, you know the game. …If you know the game, then everybody is accepting of that,” James said.

I am by no means a huge LeBron James fan, but in regard to his stance on whether a woman can be a coach in the NBA, I agree 100 percent. The most important questions when evaluating a coach should be largely focused are: Whether a coach is male, or female is obsolete. It’s time for the NBA to have a female head coach.

Although, the road may be long and hard for any women looking to become a head coach of a professional sports team there are several potential female candidates that can become the first female coach in the NBA.

Becky Hammon

Hammon is the epitome of a woman with knowledge of the game of basketball. Undrafted out of Colorado State in 1999, Hammon played 16 years of professional basketball, where she was a six-time All-Star selection and a four-time member of the all-WNBA team. Hammon made history in 2014 by becoming the first salaried female coach in the NBA, when she joined the coaching staff of the San Antonio Spurs. Hammon later made news when she interviewed to become head coach of her alma mater’s men’s basketball team last summer, which would have made her the first full-time female coach for a Division I team. Despite not getting the coaching job at her alma mater, Hammon is at the forefront of becoming the first female head coach in the NBA.

Cheryl Reeve

In 18 years of professional coaching in the WNBA, Reeve has won six championships (two as an assistant coach, four as head coach), including four in the last seven years. Her professional head coaching record with the Minnesota Lynx is 195-77 (.718) and she boasts a 4-2 finals record. Reeves ties the record for most championships by a head coach in the WNBA; it’s safe to say that Reeve’s coaching ability could transfer over in the NBA.

Dawn Staley

Like Hammon, Staley is also a former WNBA player-turned-coach. Staley started off coaching at Temple before moving over to South Carolina, where she won the national championship in 2017. In 18 years of coaching collegiately, Staley has qualified for the NCAA tournament 13 times and holds a current collegiate record of 422-167 (.716). Staley’s success as a collegiate coach earned her the U.S. national team coach in 2017. As her coaching stock continues to increase, Staley could make the transition over from collegiate to professional coach in either the WNBA or NBA.

Niele Ivey

UConn may be one of the greatest programs in NCAA history, but no team has more victories over the Huskies in the last 10 years than the Irish. Although, a combined team effort behind the scenes, Notre Dame associate head coach Niele Ivey, has made a name for herself through her scout work that has led to numerous Irish victories over top opponents, and her development of players has not gone unnoticed. Despite not having any head coaching experience, Ivey has proven her knowledge of the game, and she has the ability to be the face of a franchise. Even if Ivey never coaches in the NBA, her aptitude and knowledge for the game are more than deserving of an assistant coaching job in the league.

In addition to the four coaches mentioned above, there are a dozen other female coaches that have mastered the game of the basketball at their respective level and are deserving to coach at a very high level. The talent pool of female coaches does exist, many of them are just waiting for an NBA franchise to take a chance on them.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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