What’s missing in men’s professional sports? I’ll tell you. It’s the lack of women having the opportunity to let their voices resonate within the arena. Knowledge is power, and too many women with extraordinary sports minds are getting pushed by the wayside. Let’s bring back the power, folks.
Of the four men’s major professional sports, the NBA is doing its best to bridge the gap concerning gender equity. In my Becky Hammon piece on August 2nd, I highlighted her promotion in the assistant coaching ranks with the San Antonio Spurs.
Hammon is now in the front row alongside all-time great, Spurs’ Head Coach, Gregg Popovich.
Becky is not alone in the fight for female equality in men’s professional sports. She has been a pioneer as an assistant in the Orange Roundball League, but let me introduce you to another. Jenny Boucek.
Like Hammon, Boucek played in the WNBA. She also happens to be a two-time WNBA champion (2004, 2010) as an assistant coach. Adding to her resume, Boucek led the Seattle Storm as their head coach from 2015-17. Following her stint in the women’s pro league, Jenny was offered an assistant coaching position with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
And when Boucek missed nine games during a Sacramento road trip in order to travel to Seattle for a medical procedure in mid-November of last season (2017-18), the players felt the effects. The players missed her, says Garrett Temple, who played last season in Sacramento. Temple and Boucek regularly talked strategy. He credits Boucek with helping rework his shot mechanics.
“She threw the ball harder than the rest of the coaches,” Temple says. “It was like, ‘Damn, Jenny, don’t take my hand off!’ She was awesome.”
So, what was this medical procedure all about? It turns out, Boucek was going forward with in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the hopes of becoming pregnant. During the procedure, several of her eggs became fertilized. With doctors taking their shot at implanting three, two implanted successfully, and one embryo survived. Jenny was officially pregnant. The first thought after her gleaming excitement — will I be able to keep my job? The answer was a resounding yes.
Her 2017-18 campaign with the Kings has now led to her next chapter. During the 2018-19 season, Jenny will be a staple as an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks. First things first. Boucek expressed early on that she would not travel during at least the first six months of the baby’s life. To her surprise, the Mavericks didn’t bat an eye. In fact, Head Coach Rick Carlisle had thought about hiring her for years.
“I’ve known for a long time she was qualified to be an NBA coach,” he says. “Once you spend time with her, there is no doubt.”
“This is an important moment for our league,” Carlisle says. “Qualified women are a reality. They are bright. They are ass-kickers. They belong in this league. They should not have to compromise the dream of motherhood for professional success.”
I couldn’t agree with you more, Coach Carlisle. Kudos to you and your staff for this hire. To the other NBA and major professional sports franchises, take note. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a Becky Hammon or Jenny Boucek because you’re uneasy about rolling the dice on a woman. These ladies are bona fide basketball experts, and they’re leading the way for other women to follow in their footsteps.