The NBA Should Not Get a 'Free Pass' on Women Coaches, Says Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol believes the NBA should be leading the way in hiring female coaches and fiercely criticized the suggestion women would not make good head coaches.

Writing for The Players Tribune, the six-time All-Star warned sports insular approach was in danger of leading to it being left behind at a time when major strives for gender equality are being made across different sectors.

“There are pushes now for increased gender diversity in the workplace of pretty much every industry in the world,” he wrote.

“It’s what’s expected. More importantly—it’s what’s right. And yet the NBA should get a pass because some fans are willing to take it easy on us […] because we’re ‘sports’?”

Much like the three other major U.S. sports leagues and their counterparts across the world—such as England’s Premier League, Australia’s National Rugby League and the Spanish and Italian main soccer leagues—the NBA does not have any female head coaches.

Gasol suggested reluctance to hire female coaches painted sports in the wrong light and was a very dangerous path to take.

“It [the prejudice against women coaches] 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,” he wrote.

“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.”

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon remains the only woman to have taken charge of an NBA team, when she led the Spurs during the Las Vegas Summer League in 2015.

Hammon joined the Spurs in 2014, becoming only the second female assistant coach in NBA history but the first to hold the position on a full-time basis—a record that also applies to the three other major sports leagues in the U.S.  

Gasol has worked with Hammon and said it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her, given her pedigree as a player and as assistant coach.

“Becky Hammon can coach,” the Spaniard added.

“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."

The two-time NBA champion also dismissed the notion Hammon only rose to her current position because the move was “good PR” for Spurs, adding NBA teams knew better than hiring female coaches purely as a publicity stunt.

“We’re talking about the NBA here—a business where there’s a lot of money on the line, and little patience for mediocrity,” he explained.

“Also we’re talking about the San Antonio Spurs, one of the most successful NBA franchises of this century.”

Last month, LeBron James waded into the debate over female coaches and overwhelmingly backed the prospect of having more women on the sidelines.

“If you know the game, everyone is accepting of that,” the Cleveland Cavaliers star and three-time NBA champion said.

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