Women get more chances in men’s realm

Progress is being made in pro sports. With one simple decision last week, the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks took a major step forward in terms of national importance as they chose to interview Becky Hammon, a woman, to be their new head coach.

Hammon isn’t just your typical candidate, either. She’s the league’s first female assistant coach and was a six-time all-star during her career in the WNBA. So she’s well qualified for a head coaching position. She even interviewed for the Bucks’ general manager opening last year before it was filled by current GM Jon Horst.

Ten years ago, the idea of a woman being considered for even an assistant coaching job was far-fetched, let alone a head coaching gig.

Twenty years ago, that idea would’ve been laughed at. Interest in women’s basketball was growing with the introduction of the WNBA the year before, but still, the concept of hiring a woman to lead a pro basketball team, or any major sports team, was foreign.

Now things are starting to change as women are starting to be considered for major coaching positions and not just for women’s leagues or college sports.

Hammon has the support of her current boss, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, as well as current NBA superstar LeBron James. If two future Hall of Famers can support Hammon and the concept of a female head coach, you’d think more people would be open to the idea.

Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily the case. If you’re on social media, the idea of Hammon leading the Bucks unleashes a primal rage in some people on social media and online comments sections.

To Hammon’s credit, she’s taken the high road and in an interview with the New Yorker, she said, “My motives shouldn’t be to change people’s minds. My job is to be the best that I can be, and if that changes your mind, then great, but I can’t be consumed with how you feel about me.”

Hammon isn’t the only woman breaking walls down, though. Last month, A.J. Mleczko became the first female in-booth analyst for the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

She had previously done work covering the 2006 Winter Olympic women’s hockey games, and in March she did her first NHL game. That turned into a frequent gig before blossoming into a job covering the postseason, where she’s done a great job.

Now the question is what’s next? Will there be any female coaches in the three other major pro sports leagues?

The NFL has had three female assistant coaches, but it will probably take years before a woman becomes a head coach. In Major League Baseball, the Oakland A’s hired a woman to serve as a guest instructor in 2015 (and they have a female scouting coordinator), but there haven’t been any who have reached higher positions.

You’d think the NHL would be more open-minded, considering how many talented female hockey players and coaches there are out there at the Olympic and college levels, but it’s been a slow process.

The NHL does have one female coach, though, in Dawn Braid, who is the skating coach for the Arizona Coyotes. If breaking in as a female coach seems difficult, being a general manager is even tougher.

There are no female GMs in the four major sports leagues, but there have been some assistants and Kim Ng is the senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, so things are slowly moving in the that direction.

Will Hammon be picked to be the Bucks’ new bench boss? That’s hard to say. This is her first interview to be an NBA head coach and it’s rare that you get the top job on your first try. At the same time, though, the Bucks did consider her worthy of a GM interview, so that could be in her favor.

If Milwaukee did decide to go with Hammon, they’d get a quality coach and leader who understands the game while showing the fans that they are willing to expand their thinking instead of just hiring a guy who’s been around the league for years but can’t manage to keep his job.

There’s a lot of quality female coaches, managers and journalists in professional sports who deserve a shot to show what they can do. What Hammon, Mleczko, Braid and others have done is help bring things further into the 21st century. Even if Hammon doesn’t get the job, the Bucks have followed the Spurs’ lead and made a big statement:

That things are changing and we want to be a part of that.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.

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