Later this week, when the New Orleans Pelicans officially name Willie Green their eighth head coach in franchise history, the NBA will wrap up a historic offseason of head coaching hires.
Of the league’s seven new head coaches, six are Black. Five of the six are first time hires.
But for all the growth, there’s one slice of history that fell through the cracks: This was supposed to be the summer of the NBA’s first female head coach. Would it be Becky Hammon or Kara Lawson? Teresa Weatherspoon or Dawn Staley? For one reason or another, it’s none of the above.
But while the NBA drags its feet, allowing questions to persist, there’s a men’s professional hoops league answering those questions in real time; a place where female head coaches not only exist, they’re kicking everyone’s ass.
“I’ve got $100 on you missin’!”
Earlier this month in Las Vegas, Charles Oakley sat courtside at the Orleans Arena, exuding every ounce of testosterone and swagger you’d expect from The Oak Man. The self-proclaimed Last Enforcer, Oakley played 19 seasons in the NBA, making an All-Star team, two All-Defensive teams and 13 consecutives trips to the playoffs. On the court, Oakley battled the fiercest of his era. Off the court, he once cold-cocked Charles Barkley and socked John Salley in the stomach. He is one the toughest individuals to ever don an NBA jersey, and no less intimidating at 57 years old.
Oakley’s yelling at Royce White, the former NBA first round pick turned activist and aspiring MMA fighter. Now 30 years old with a bald head, jacked frame and thick beard, he hits the free throw, then winks and snarls in Oakley’s direction. “It’s easy!”
The whistle blows for a time out as Oakley gets out of his seat and approaches the court. White’s looking straight at him, and not backing down. Their shoulders meet with an impact that would send most humans into orbit, but in this case neither man gives an inch, smiling just enough to keep it playful.
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