Kara Lawson has taken a somewhat unconventional route to being named the fifth head coach in Duke women’s basketball history.
She has never been an assistant, much less in charge of her own program, at the collegiate level. In fact, she has technically only been in the coaching profession for 381 days, serving as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics this season.
Despite this, considering Lawson to be underqualified for this job would fail to take her varied resumé into account. Lawson has been involved with the game of basketball for virtually her entire life, and the multitude of experiences she has had will serve her well as the head coach in Durham.
Lawson played for the pioneer of the sport, the late Pat Summitt, during a decorated four-year career at Tennessee. It stands to reason that Lawson could bring some of Summitt’s trademark toughness and energy to the program. If that is the case, look for Duke to constantly battle for loose balls every night in the rugged ACC.
Her WNBA career brought even more success, as Lawson provided steady guard play for the Sacramento Monarchs, Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics. Her 13-year career yielded a championship in 2005 and an All-Star appearance in 2007 for the former fifth overall pick. Lawson retired in 2015, meaning that she understands the mentality of modern players, which will aid her immensely on the recruiting trail.
Lawson even has the perspective of a TV analyst. In 2007, while still in the WNBA, she became the first woman to broadcast a nationally-televised NBA game, showing her willingness to be a trailblazer. She always provided knowledgeable insight for viewers and has been praised by her former colleagues for her professionalism.
Most recently, Lawson was an assistant for one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. If someone gains the trust of Brad Stevens, who has done wonders at Butler and in Boston, their strategic knowledge and ability to connect with players should not come into question.
Besides, does every coaching hire have to fit into a neat little box, where every candidate is either an assistant or a head coach within the landscape of women’s college basketball? That strategy obviously limits the choices that athletic directors have at their disposal. Creative thinking might be exactly what the Blue Devils need in the wake of Haley Gorecki, Leaonna Odom and Kyra Lambert saying goodbye to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Lawson is ready to implement her vision for the program.
A strong foundation is in place thanks to the work of Gail Goestenkors and Joanne P. McCallie, and there is still talent on the current roster with Jade Williams, Miela Goodchild and Mikayla Boykin all returning . Considering her unique and impressive track record, who is to say that Lawson won’t bring the Blue Devils back to where they rightfully belong?
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