By Ken Reed
A couple days ago, the San Antonio Spurs’ Pau Gasol sat down and wrote a terrific piece about the need for progressive thinking when it comes to the topic of a female head coach in the NBA.
Gasol was inspired to write the letter for The Players’ Tribune by the negative reaction to the news that the Milwaukee Bucks were going to interview Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, making her the first female interviewed for a top coaching job in the NBA.
Gasol is dismayed that we, as a society, are still making a big deal about gender in coaching. In Gasol’s mind, Hammon is clearly qualified for the job.
“One, she was an accomplished player — with an elite point guard’s mind for the game,” writes Gasol.
“And two, she has been a successful assistant for arguably the greatest coach in the game. What more do you need? But like I said — I’m not here to make that argument. Arguing on Coach Hammon’s behalf would feel patronizing. To me, it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach.”
Gasol passionately and effectively takes apart the arguments he’s heard against Hammon as a possible head coach.
Is Hammon capable of coaching men at the highest level of the game?
“[I]’ve been in the NBA for 17 years. I’ve won two championships … I’ve played with some of the best players of this generation … and I’ve played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich,” writes Gasol.
“And I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”
Gasol is angry when he hears people say the Spurs hired Hammon in her current position simply as a public relations tactic.
“What? Seriously: What? No. We’re talking about the NBA here — a business where there’s a lot of money on the line, and little patience for mediocrity. [Popovich’s] only standard for doing anything is whether it’ll help us in just one way … and it isn’t getting good p.r. It’s getting W’s. And getting those W’s The Spurs Way.”
Gasol is appalled when he hears people say if there were a female head coach in the NBA there would be some “awkwardness in the locker room.”
“Maybe you’re laughing to yourself as you read that,” writes Gasol.
“And I get it. It’s ridiculous. But I think it’s worth taking seriously, too, for a moment — just in terms of how embarrassing it is for us as a league that this is something people are actually talking about. First, as for the idea itself: I mean, of course it’s a myth. Give me a break. There’s really nothing to say about it even. The players dress in a certain area, and the coaches dress in a certain area. O.K.? And yes, I’m sure, within that coaches area, Becky has a private space. But the point is — it’s not like you’re seeing male head coaches sharing a space with players while they’re changing. It doesn’t happen.
“But I also think it goes to something deeper than that, when people will make this argument — in a way that really bothers me. It goes to this idea that … as we’re making all of these amazing strides in society, in terms of increasing our social awareness, and making efforts toward ideas like diversity and equality, and just sort of creating this more inclusive world … somehow sports should be an exception. It’s this idea, for some people, that sports should almost be this haven, where it’s O.K. to be closed-minded — like a bubble for all of our worst ignorance.”
Gasol is encouraged by the fact the NBA is the most progressive of all pro sports leagues in the United States when it comes to a variety of issues.
“I see it when we’re coming together over something as urgent as Black Lives Matter … I see it when guys like DeMar [DeRozan] and Kevin [Love] are being vocal and open about emotional wellbeing … I see it when Adam Silver, our commissioner, is marching in an LGBTQ pride parade … I see it when MVPs like Steph and LeBron keep showing the world that nobody is too famous to use their platform to stand up for what they believe in … and of course I see it when a franchise like the Bucks is willing to give an interview for their head-coaching vacancy to a candidate who — male or female — absolutely deserves it.”
Gasol is proud of where his league is today on social justice topics, but he also wants to keep pushing forward.
The Bucks interviewing Becky Hammon is a positive step in that direction.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon