There’s nothing like a great article about a woman in sports with no stereotypes to make your morning. Seriously! Yesterday, the New York Times profiled Natalie Nakase, a Los Angeles Clippers Assistant Video Coordinator, who has a very laudable goal: to be the first-ever female NBA head coach. Nakase accomplished something awesome this summer: being named an assistant coach for the two-week NBA summer league. She earned the spot with two years of hard work and dedication to the Clippers.
The Times article is great: it talks about Nakase identifying her goals, going abroad to coach professionally, and then coming back to the U.S. to pursue work in the NBA. She took a low-paying (or no-paying) internship with the Clippers at first in order to work her way in (and, as the Times notes, coaches Erik Spoelstra, Frank Vogel and Mike Brown all started as video interns.)
[W]hen Nakase, 34, sat on the bench recently on the staff of Brendan O’Connor, the summer league coach, it was an acknowledgment of the work she has put in over the last two seasons as a video intern.
“It’s where she wants to be someday,” [Doc] Rivers[, head coach of the Clippers,] said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s men or women — she wants to be a coach and she works her butt off at it. She’s in our film room all year, she’s terrific, and it’s a way of rewarding employees. She’s very loyal; she’s out on the floor with our guys, rebounding, and she’s a student of the game, and I thought it was important to reward her.”
I loved this profile, obviously, because it shows a woman as a professional in a men’s sports league, in an area dominated by men, working hard and getting where she can because the team’s staff and administration understand that women can do this just as well as men. But I also loved the profile because it avoided all of the cliches and tropes of a “girl making it in a man’s world” story upon which it could have easily hinged. Kudos to author Billy Witz for avoiding this, and presenting a great profile of a woman breaking barriers.