Women coaching men — can they? Will they?








Fourth in a series


Six women were full-time Division I men’s basketball assistants during an eight-year stretch from 2003 to 2011. Before that (1990-2002), there were three female assistants, two of them Black — Bernadette Mattox at Kentucky, 1990-94, and Stephanie Ready at Coppin State, 1999-2001.

None, however, were ever fired as men’s assistants.

Mattox went on to become Kentucky’s head women’s basketball coach, then eight years as a WNBA assistant. Ready later coached two years in the NBA Development League (2001-03) and became the first female to coach in a men’s pro league. She also coached a game when the head coach was suspended.

But it’s been nearly three years since a woman sat on the men’s Division I basketball team bench as an assistant coach. Hasn’t the stereotype that females can’t coach men been finally put to rest? Can women coach men?

Ellen Staurowsky Photo by Charles Hallman
Ellen Staurowsky
Photo by Charles Hallman

“Yes they can,” responded Crystal Flint, a former Division I player, assistant coach and Division II head coach, now a local basketball official. “Will they? I doubt it, and I say I doubt it for a number of reasons.

“Number one, I think it would take a special [male] coach…a head coach secure in himself to take a [female] assistant,” explains Flint.  “I don’t know how many are out there that would feel comfortable enough to do such a thing. On the flip side, in regards to being a head coach, that would lie in a number of things — number one, the athletic director who would do the hiring. How many are out there that are ready for that potential backlash from donors [and] sponsors?

“I don’t think the problem lies with the players,” Flint surmises. “I have seen maybe a number of women on the national scene coaching [male players] in AAU traveling basketball, but I don’t know how many [female] high school head coaches there are. I think these kids want to be coached by whoever can get them to the next level. So I think the problem lies more with the higher-ups.”

“I think there are substantial consequences to this lack of women’s voices in the athletic department,” says Ellen Staurowsky, a former Smith College athletic director and now a sport management professor at Drexel. “We have essentially an almost exclusively male workplace for men’s sports, and then for women’s sports we have a sex-integrated workplace. We have a declining number of women overall in the coaching ranks [as a result].

“I think we’ve struggled for so long with the mythology…and the reality within college athletic programs at the big-time level — there are business interests which have grown substantially and have overtaken the rhetoric,” continues the professor. Staurowsky says she believes the exposure as well as more money in men’s college basketball won’t decrease any time soon.

“More power is going to come from coaching those men’s teams. I think we need to plant the seeds among young women that they, too, can be earning big money and that they should be applying for men’s coaches’ positions as well as women’s coaches’ positions,” she points out.

“Women are crossing over in roles that have been dominated by [men]” such as female officials, concludes Flint. “So I don’t see why coaching at the collegiate level wouldn’t be another step.”


Next: Has the rising cost of college football gotten out of hand?

Read how “information bubbles” strike again in “Another View Extra” on this week’s MSR website.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.