Mavericks assistant coach Jenny Boucek pregnant

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings hired Jenny Boucek as an assistant on Dave Joerger’s staff last offseason. The Mavericks hired her as an assistant on Rick Carlisle’s staff this offseason.

Between, something happened that is common in nearly all fields but was groundbreaking in NBA coaching: She got pregnant.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

“I knew there was a scenario where this would cost me my dream of coaching in the NBA,” Boucek says. “I had to be OK with that. I had to be comfortable with that.” She feared taking even a year off.

“Once you’re out, it can be hard to get back in,” Boucek says. “Especially as a female. I have to prove myself in the NBA, even if this is my 20th year of coaching. I expect to do that. I want to do that. I don’t want to be given anything.”

After the season, with Boucek most of the way through her pregnancy, the Kings were prepared to bring her back, Joerger and Boucek say. Dallas and a third team expressed interest. Boucek told all three that she was due in midsummer and would not travel during at least the first six months of the baby’s life. All three remained interested.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Boucek says. “It was humbling. It was a little surprising.”

She interviewed with Carlisle and Mark Cuban, the Mavs’ owner, in Dallas on the afternoon of the NBA draft. After the interview, Cuban and Carlisle devised a position for her: assistant to the basketball staff/special projects, a non-traveling coaching position; the Mavs announced her hiring on July 18. (The Mavs and Boucek are open to the possibility that she may begin traveling with the team at some point after those first six months, Carlisle and Boucek say.)

When the Mavs are on the road, Boucek will watch games, scout opponents, and provide feedback to the coaches and the team’s analytics department, Carlisle says. When they are at home, she will do all that, plus attend shootarounds, practices, coaches meetings and games. She will not sit behind the bench at first, but that could change if she begins traveling, Carlisle says.

“This is an important moment for our league,” Carlisle says. “Qualified women are a reality. They are bright. They are ass-kickers. They belong in this league. They should not have to compromise the dream of motherhood for professional success.”

Boucek’s fear this could undermine her career “especially as a female” was well-founded. While both men and women often struggle to balance work and personal life, pregnancy particularly far too often damages a women’s standing at work. Hopefully that will change, but Boucek clearly understands the present reality.

Kudos to the Mavericks for handling this well (progress for them on treatment of women). They wanted Boucek on their coaching staff, and accommodating her needs during pregnancy and after childbirth are a small price to pay. Hiring good people is difficult enough without eliminating pregnant women and new mothers from the pool of potential employees.

Boucek’s specific circumstances are unique in the NBA, but the general idea behind Dallas’ treatment of her is not.

Teams have long-borne these types of costs to hire their desired coaches. Jason Kidd was suspended for what would have been his first two games as the Nets’ head coach due to a DUI committed before they hired him.

The Mavericks can certainly handle Boucek’s time off and travel uncertainty.