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 #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon