In WNBA Coaching Bounces to the Guys

Women's professional basketball is thriving, female coaches are not

| September 7, 2006

When the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded, naysayers insisted that people wouldn't be interested in watching women shoot hoops. Ten years later, things are looking up. The league has dedicated fans and though it hasn't turned a profit,  NBA commissioner David Stern expects one next year. But as women's professional basketball comes into its own, Justine Nicholas of Women's e-News reports on a disconcerting development: a league created to elevate women athletes is seeing more and more women losing coaching jobs to men. In 1997, just one of eight teams had a male coach; today, there are only three female coaches among the league's 14 teams.

Oddly enough, a driving reason for the shift is the WNBA's burgeoning success. 'A higher level of play stokes demand for coaches with professional -- versus college -- experience,' Nicholas writes. The newer lineup of male coaches cut their teeth in the NBA, where the collegiate mandate to be a teacher is trumped by the drive to strategize and win.

'When this league started, we gave several women opportunities,' says Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan, 'it seemed that those opportunities were not successful, so the trend just flipped.' With the drive to pluck professionals, many former WNBA coaches have moved back to  college courts, often with lucrative contracts.

While WNBA President Donna Orender wants more women back in coaching positions, others don't see the need, given the league's budding success. Female players are learning to slam dunk and sculpting the league to look like their male counterparts' -- right down to the coaching staffs. -- Rachel Anderson

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