For Lisa Willis, there's a reason to celebrate both on and off the court, as she makes NBA history by becoming the first female coach for the New York Knickerbockers.
A California native and record-breaking former sharpshooter of UCLA’s women’s basketball team, Willis’ “duties will include serving as an assistant coach for the Knick’s G League team - the Westchester Knicks (the official minor league team),” according to the Washington Informer.
“Men and women are different, absolutely,” Willis said. “But that doesn’t mean we [women] can’t do the same things they do. It’s not an issue of better but different – different methods and different outlooks. As a woman, I didn’t want to be brought in so the Knicks could check off a box. What matters is whether I’m qualified.”
As a former New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks guard, WNBA veteran Willis will not be alone as a female NBA coach. She joins Becky Hammon and Kristi Tolliver, assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards, respectively.
“I’ve always been a coach I suppose. I realized that while working with the girls at T.C. Williams. That’s when I first acknowledged how much I love to mentor athletes – both on and off the court,” Willis said. “ If you’re not helping your players develop, then you’re not coaching. Management picks the players – coaches have the responsibility to coach those players. And it’s an all-encompassing job, for both the head coach and their staff.”
Willis admits that at one point she considered abandoning basketball altogether and settling for a nine-to-five, but the love and support of her dad kept her going. And while there are fewer than 10 other women currently coaching in the NBA and Willis is feeling the pressure, because of her faith and trust in God, she is “allowing Him to take the wheel.”
As the Knicks have opened a door for Willis and she takes her place in history, she now feels it’s her “responsibility to do a phenomenal job and make sure that door stays open for others – other women – to enter.”