To Adam Silver, the idea of a woman being hired as head coach in the NBA seems to be an inevitable step on a journey to a time when the gender of coaches is irrelevant. But for every Silver, there’s someone like Mike Francesa, preaching that the day will never come.
Silver, though, is in a position to do something about the matter and, although his reign is in its infancy by David Stern standards, he intends to work to make the league’s first woman head coach among his signature achievements.
Saying there “definitely will be” a woman coaching an NBA team, Silver told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that “I think it is on me to sort of insure that it happens sooner rather than later.”
Silver, in an interview to promote the league and Leanin.org’s new campaign to raise gender-equality awareness, also hopes to add female game officials as the league increases its roster of refs by 25 percent over the next three seasons. Lauren Holtkamp is the only woman officiating games, following in the footsteps of Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner.
During his WFAN show recently, Francesa made waves for saying that a woman has no shot at being a head coach and that hiring a woman would be a “sad publicity stunt.”
“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. 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 difference 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.”
Presently, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon and Sacramento’s Nancy Lieberman are assistant coaches; Natalie Nakase, who also hopes to become a head coach in the league, is the Los Angeles Clippers’ assistant video coordinator.
“I do think there are things that the league can and should be doing to accelerate the move toward a woman being a head coach in the league,” Silver said.
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, who hired Hammon in August 2014, called Francesa’s comments “nonsense,” and Hammon recently turned down an offerto become the head coach of the University of Florida’s women’s team, preferring instead to focus on becoming the first woman head coach in the NBA.
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