The NBA’s Expanding Coaching Horizons

With Becky Hammon interviewing for the Bucks’ head coaching job, the NBA is beginning to broaden its head coaching horizons, writes David Yapkowitz.

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Sports Editor
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Multiple NBA teams are currently on the hunt for a new head coach, yet there has been one intriguing name that has emerged over the weekend. Becky Hammon, currently an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, has been mentioned as a possibility for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks fired Jason Kidd during the regular season and interim coach Joe Prunty led the team all the way through their first-round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Bucks plan to interview Hammon for their vacant head coach position. She will be the first woman to ever interview for an NBA head coaching job.

Hammon made history during the summer of 2014 when she was hired as an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio. She became the first full-time female coach in the NBA. She served as the head coach for the Spurs summer league team in Las Vegas in 2015, leading them to the LVSL title.

There have been a few assistant coaches already who have come up under Popovich and turned that experience in successful head coaching performances. Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer are good examples of that. Hammon has spent the past several years learning under one of the best coaches in the NBA. Not only would she be an asset to any NBA team, but she would become the first ever female head coach in the league.

That begs the question then, are there other women out there qualified to lead NBA teams? It’s no secret that the majority of head coaches in the WNBA and even women’s NCAA are men. So why do we not see female coaches in men’s basketball? That’s a debate for another time, but there are a few other women out there who would probably make good coaches in the NBA. And it might be time for NBA teams to start expanding their horizons a little bit.

One good candidate is Natalie Nakase. Nakase played college basketball for UCLA from 1998-2003. She had a brief professional career in the now-defunct National Women’s Basketball League (NWBL) that was cut short due to injury. She later served as the first female head coach in the top men’s professional league in Japan.

In 2012, she interned with the Los Angeles Clippers under their video coordinator. She was later promoted to assistant video coordinator and she currently serves as an assistant for their G-League team, the Agua Caliente Clippers.

There have been other video coordinators such as Erik Spoelstra and Mike Brown who have gone on to land head coaching jobs in the NBA. It wouldn’t be that much of a leap. Some seasoning as an assistant coach in the NBA would probably do her well. But then again, there have been some who made the leap without any assistant coaching experience.

Another good candidate is Nancy Lieberman. Probably the most recognizable name of this group, Lieberman is currently an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings. Prior to that, she was the head coach of the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks G-League affiliate. In the G-League, she became the first woman to be a head coach of a men’s professional basketball team in the U.S.

She also held a front office position with the Legends, and this summer she’ll serve as head coach of Power in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league. A brilliant basketball mind, she has the experience coaching men in a professional setting. She’s got almost the same amount of experience as Hammon as an assistant in the NBA. It might not be long before her name starts being mentioned as a possible head coach.

There is one intriguing name who wasn’t been mentioned yet as a possible coach anywhere. That name is Kara Lawson. Lawson played in the WNBA, won a title and is also an Olympic gold medalist. While she was still playing in the WNBA, she started working as a studio analyst for the Kings. She’s currently the primary television analyst for the Washington Wizards.

She’s been around the NBA game as an analyst for quite some time now. She’s been around basketball for even longer. It’s rare for someone to go straight to a head coaching job right out of the broadcasting booth, but Steve Kerr did it. Mark Jackson did it. Kenny Smith’s name has come up on possible head coach lists. Just like Lawson, they all are former players. Even as an assistant, Lawson is somebody NBA teams should keep an eye on when thinking outside the box.

With news of Hammon’s interview with the Bucks, it’s likely that we will see a female head coach in the NBA in the not too distant future. The names mentioned in this group are but a tiny sample of the women out there qualified to lead an NBA team. This group is just the tip of the iceberg. After that first domino falls, then maybe it’ll open the floodgates.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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