“An obsessively determined woman willing to start on the bottom rung”


For ESPN, our pal Kate Fagan profiled Natalie Nakase, a former UCLA basketball player who hopes to become the first female coach in the NBA:

The topic of women coaching in the NBA has surfaced from time to time. But in years past, the only woman mentioned with any seriousness was longtime Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history, male or female. In other words, only a woman with Summitt’s credentials could be deemed capable of coaching men. At the same time, this theoretical moment — “Female To Coach NBA Team!” — is invariably portrayed as a splashy, front-page kind of move, a socio-cultural experiment doubling as a marketing ploy, like a scene from the movie “Eddie” with Whoopi Goldberg, who plays a super fan plucked from the rafters of Madison Square Garden and inserted as coach of the New York Knicks.

The problem with these scenarios is they never account for the possibility that a behind-the-scenes player will rise up to steal the show. The NBA’s first female coach probably won’t be a Big Name hired as a publicity stunt. She will, more than likely, be someone like Nakase: an obsessively determined woman willing to start on the bottom rung of the NBA ladder, no matter how many people advise her that more opportunity exists in the women’s game.

[EDIT: Thanks to clace for pointing out this article’s a year old and is recirculating thanks to Nikase’s appointment as a Clippers assistant coach in this year’s Summer League.] Nakase was a head coach in Japan’s top-tier men’s league last year, and is now a video intern with the Los Angeles Clippers — the same role that rather infamously launched Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s career. Paging Mark Cuban. [ESPN]