Spurs assistant Becky Hammon has advanced further than any female coach in NBA history, but she’s not the only woman in the league’s coaching ranks.
Nancy Lieberman (Kings), Jenny Boucek (Kings), Natalie Nakase (Clippers) and Nicki Gross (Raptors) have roles in their franchises.
Add Karen Umlauf (Bulls) to the list.
Umlauf has worked 34 years for Chicago, most recently as Senior Director of Basketball Administration. She’ll also serve as an assistant coach to Randy Brown on the Bulls’ summer-league team.
She has already been transitioning into the staff basketball operations role with film and draft work with the coaches and in practices this past season.
“We probably have waited too long to give her an opportunity like this,” said Bulls Executive Vice-president of Basketball Operations John Paxson. “We all think the world of Karen. She’s a smart basketball person and this gives her an opportunity. Gar (Forman, general manager) and I talked to her a while back and said we’d like to do something along these lines. She’s a talented person, a longtime Chicago Bull.
“She’s got a different perspective than maybe any of the other coaches we have,” said Paxson. “We all view the game through our own lenses and Karen has looked at the game differently and that can be a good thing; sometimes ideas come from that. Given how she has been traveling and doing things with the coaches this season, this an opportunity to learn even more and we’ll see where it leads.”
Companies, including NBA teams, should mine as wide of a pool as possible for employees. That creates the best chance of hiring the best people.
Women are definitely underrepresented in NBA coaching, and teams would do well to give them more consideration. It has been a slow process – too slow, even Paxson acknowledges.
But this is progress.