When former Michigan coach John Beilein was hired by Cleveland last month, many saw it as a radical move by NBA standards. College coach, intricate offense, 66 years old and a former high school teacher. On Wednesday, he made another unique move.
Beilein hired former Cal women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “In a landmark appointment for the NBA,” he tweeted, “the Cleveland Cavaliers are hiring University of California-Berkeley women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb to be an assistant coach on John Beilein’s staff, league sources tell ESPN.”
The landmark is that Gottlieb is the first college women’s coach to land a job on an NBA coaching staff. Previous hires have typically been former WNBA players that worked their way up as scouts and developmental staff.
The 41-year old is an accomplished choice. She made the NCAA Tournament all but one year since 2011 at Berkeley, including a Final Four berth in 2013. She is also just one of a handful of female assistants in the NBA at this time.
How many? Let’s take a look.
How Many Female Assistants Are in the NBA?
With Gottlieb in the fold, there are now six female assistants on NBA coaching staffs. There have been a couple more recently according to Female Coaching Network, including Nicki Gross and Nancy Lieberman.
Natalie Nakase (Clippers), Becky Hammon (Spurs), Jenny Boucek (Mavericks), Kristi Toliver (Wizards) and Chasity Melvin (Hornets) are the others. Hammon seems the closest to breaking the glass ceiling and earning a head coaching job.
The former WNBA star has already broken a lot of barriers. She coached in an NBA All-Star game. She interviewed for the head position at Colorado State’s men’s team, and even turned down an offer from Florida. She interviewed for the Bucks coaching job last summer.
Now, she’s Popovich’s top assistant next to him on the bench.
Another first: she was the head coach for the Spurs’ Summer League team in 2015. She also returned from Las Vegas with the title.
San Antonio defeated Phoenix 93-90 in the championship game to end the summer with a 6-1 record. Per interviews with WNBA.com, she earned “universal praise” from her players.
Kyle Anderson: “That was awesome. She did a really good job. We only lost one game out here in Vegas, and the game we lost she drew up a great play for us. She put us in a great position to win the game with a great play to get a last-second shot; it just didn’t go in. Every other thing other than that, she got our guys ready to play. We got a very difficult system down pat with just a little amount of time.
“It’s going to take somebody who has some guts, some imagination, and is not driven by old standards and old forms,” he said in a New Yorker piece. “If somebody is smart, it’s actually a pretty good marketing deal—but it’s not about that. It’s got to be that she’s competent, that she’s ready.”
With Beilein at 66 years old, Gottlieb has a golden opportunity to earn her stripes on his staff over her 4-year contract. Whether or not she’s ready for a head job with the Cavaliers has yet to be seen.