A couple years ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he had “no doubt” there’d be a female head coach in his league.
Becky Hammon remains with the Spurs as an assistant after an offer to become the Florida women’s basketball head coach, but no woman has gotten the top seat in the NBA.
So, Silver is taking greater agency in the situation.
Silver, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
“There definitely will,” Silver said when asked about a woman becoming an NBA head coach. “And I think it is on me to sort of ensure that it happens sooner rather than later.”
“First of all, let me say that I disagree that there will not be a woman head coach in the NBA,” Silver said. “It is hard to say exactly when [it will happen]. There are three women currently in the pipeline, and I think like we have seen in all other aspects of life, while there are certain cases for example, the athletes that participate in the NBA, there are obvious physical differences between men and women and those differences are why we have a men’s league and a women’s league.
“But on the other hand when it comes to coaching, when there is absolutely no physical requirement, when it is not a function of how high you can jump or how strong you are, there is no physical litmus test to being a head coach in the league, there is absolutely no reason why a woman will not ascend to be a head coach in this league. We are very focused in on it.”
Hammon and Nancy Lieberman (Kings) are assistant coaches. But if Natalie Nakase, the Clippers’ assistant video coordinator, counts as in the pipeline, hundreds — maybe thousands — of men are also in the pipeline.
Erik Spoelstra famously advanced out of the Heat’s video room to become their head coach, and Nakase can follow the same path. But for every Spoelstra, countless aspiring coaches never reach that top job.
Hammon is a rising star in the industry, but the NBA should focus on clearing barriers for women getting lower-level coaching jobs (like Hammon, Lieberman and Nakase currently have). As long as men outnumber women so significantly in supporting roles, a woman like Hammon becoming a head coach would be more fluke than trend-setting. There just aren’t enough women on the NBA coaching track.
I expect that to change, especially under Silver’s leadership, but that’s where to begin the process.