ESPN's Graham Hayes: Kara Lawson Represents a New Generation of Coaches

Ignatius L Hoops

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Good article by Hayes: I, of course, still think it's odd that power 5 teams continue hiring head coaches with no coaching experience.

A few months before the Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty played the first WNBA game in 1997, the NCAA Final Four featured a quartet of teams far more familiar to women's basketball fans: Notre Dame, Old Dominion, Stanford and eventual champion Tennessee.

Or put in an equally familiar way: Muffet McGraw, Wendy Larry, Tara VanDerveer and Pat Summitt

Four esteemed coaches who piled up national championships, Olympic gold medals and several thousand wins between them. Four women who, when they were barely out of college themselves in their early-to-mid 20s, started their coaching careers with little institutional support and even less financial reward. And four women who persevered.

Kara Lawson is part of their legacy. She learned from the late Summitt at Tennessee. So did former Lady Vols star Nikki McCray-Penson. Niele Ivey experienced the same under McGraw's watch at Notre Dame, first as a player and later as an assistant coach.

And now those three -- with McCray-Penson's three seasons in charge at Old Dominion representing the full extent of their collective women's college basketball head-coaching experience -- are three of the biggest hires of the offseason. They hold some of the most coveted coaching real estate in women's basketball: McCray-Penson at Mississippi State, Ivey at Notre Dame and now Lawson at Duke after she was named the Blue Devils' coach Saturday.

But as much as they are connected to the game's past as protégés of legends, they are even more indicative of where we are going. Someone with no prior head-coaching experience beyond USA Basketball's 3-on-3 teams, Lawson represents the boldest experiment. It's time for the next generation of innovators and leaders who, nearly 25 years after the birth of the WNBA, have been busy playing professional basketball and exploring the doors it opens

And now those three -- with McCray-Penson's three seasons in charge at Old Dominion representing the full extent of their collective women's college basketball head-coaching experience -- are three of the biggest hires of the offseason. They hold some of the most coveted coaching real estate in women's basketball: McCray-Penson at Mississippi State, Ivey at Notre Dame and now Lawson at Duke after she was named the Blue Devils' coach Saturday.

But as much as they are connected to the game's past as protégés of legends, they are even more indicative of where we are going. Someone with no prior head-coaching experience beyond USA Basketball's 3-on-3 teams, Lawson represents the boldest experiment. It's time for the next generation of innovators and leaders who, nearly 25 years after the birth of the WNBA, have been busy playing professional basketball and exploring the doors it opens

And now those three -- with McCray-Penson's three seasons in charge at Old Dominion representing the full extent of their collective women's college basketball head-coaching experience -- are three of the biggest hires of the offseason. They hold some of the most coveted coaching real estate in women's basketball: McCray-Penson at Mississippi State, Ivey at Notre Dame and now Lawson at Duke after she was named the Blue Devils' coach Saturday.

But as much as they are connected to the game's past as protégés of legends, they are even more indicative of where we are going. Someone with no prior head-coaching experience beyond USA Basketball's 3-on-3 teams, Lawson represents the boldest experiment. It's time for the next generation of innovators and leaders who, nearly 25 years after the birth of the WNBA, have been busy playing professional basketball and exploring the doors it opens.
Lindsay gets a mention as does Marisa Moseley:

The WNBA and NBA pipeline is flowing freely at the moment in college basketball. Some of the hires will work. Some won't. It has been that way in all sports for all time.

Texas A&M's Kelly Bond-White is of essentially the same generation as Lawson and the others hired this summer (not to mention 2018, when Minnesota hired Lindsay Whalen with no prior coaching experience and Virginia hired Tina Thompson after a short stint as a Texas assistant). Bond-White went into coaching almost as soon as she finished playing at Illinois. She isn't a worse head-coaching candidate for it.

Missouri State's Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, Drake's Jennie Baranczyk and Boston University's Marisa Moseley are young mid-major head coaches. None played in the WNBA. All will be tremendous hires for bigger programs, should any of them wish to leave current good gigs.

It's not that Lawson's is a better route. But it is another route.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Kara Lawson's first game as Duke women's basketball coach will be her first game as a coach in any capacity at the college level. That is a feature rather than a bug, according to the new coach and the administrators who hired her at one of college basketball's flagship programs.

[...]

She is the second former WNBA player with no college coaching experienced hired in the past two years by a program that has been to the Final Four, joining University of Minnesota coach and fellow Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Whalen.

King said Duke employed the same search firm responsible for six other active head coaches at the school. A list of what she described as "more than 20 serious candidates" was pared to six candidates who were interviewed and two finalists who had additional interviews.

"She's spent thousands of hours at practices and talking to coaches and around student-athletes during her time as a broadcaster," King said of Lawson. "And then again during her time as USA Basketball 3-on-3 coach, she's been with the college student-athlete. So she's not coming into the college scene from scratch. It's just a different and unique experience. So I think in kind of looking at the total package, Kara had it all for us."

The first Black head coach in Duke women's basketball history, Lawson said she was pleased to be one of a growing number of women of color hired by prominent programs. That list includes Notre Dame's Niele Ivey and Mississippi State's Nikki McCray-Penson, both hired this year. Lawson drew a parallel between increasing diversity in that regard and her experiences.

"We're having a lot of needed conversations about diversity," Lawson said. "If you really believe in it you know that it creates great value for your organization. I think the same about experiences. I think having been around the game in a number of capacities is a strength that I bring to this position. Understanding the game as a player, understanding the game from the college perspective, from the pro perspective, from the women's perspective, from the men's perspective, from the coaching perspective, from the media perspective, there's so many things that I've experienced. So I think I'll bring all of that to the position."
 

Shades

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Unlike Whalen, Lawson had a little coaching experience. She coached 3x3, plus her last job was assistant coaching for the Celtics. Plus, she’s always had that coaching moxie, kinda cocky and sure of herself.... again unlike Whalen.
 

CutDownTheNet

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Unlike Whalen, Lawson had a little coaching experience. She coached 3x3, plus her last job was assistant coaching for the Celtics. Plus, she’s always had that coaching moxie, kinda cocky and sure of herself.... again unlike Whalen.
A pretty good lineup for her 3x3 dream team:

Chiney Ogwumike (post)
Jewell Loyd (wing)
Sabrina Ionescu (point guard)
Paige Bueckers (presumably playing the 1-3 (or is that 1-2 in 3x3?))

Can you imagine having to go against Sabrina at PG plus Jewell's shooting, and then when either one subs out, you're going against Paige instead? Difficult to defend.

Curious why she picked Chiney over her sister.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Kara Lawson hires her assistants:

New Duke women's basketball coach Kara Lawson announced the hiring of three assistants Friday, including longtime former Notre Dame assistant Beth Cunningham.

Also on the staff will be Tia Jackson, who previously was an assistant at Duke for Gail Goestenkors and has spent the last five years at Miami, and Winston Gandy, who has been at Rice for three seasons.

Lawson, a former Tennessee player who spent the past year as an assistant with the NBA's Boston Celtics, was hired by Duke on July 11. This is her first college coaching job, and she had previously said experience would be one of the biggest things she would look for in assistants.

Cunningham and Jackson both are coming to Duke from other ACC schools and have been coaching for the past two decades

As a player, Cunningham, then known as Beth Morgan, helped lead Notre Dame to its first Women's Final Four in 1997. After playing professionally, she began as an assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth in 2001 before becoming head coach two years later and staying in that role until 2012.

She returned to her alma mater in 2012 as an assistant to Muffet McGraw and was a part of the 2018 national championship team among her five Final Four appearances with the Irish. When McGraw retired in April, Cunningham was not retained by new coach Niele Ivey, who also had been on McGraw's staff from 2007 to 2019.

Jackson also went to the Women's Final Four as a player, with Iowa in 1993. After a season in the WNBA, she entered coaching. Since 1996, she has been an assistant at six different programs, along with being head coach at Washington from 2007 to 2011. Her previous stint at Duke was from 2005 to 2007, which included a 2006 national runner-up finish.
 
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