Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes Lindsay Gottlieb’s “zest for life” gives her a head start toward being a successful NBA assistant coach.
Gottlieb, the Cal women’s basketball coach for the past eight seasons, was hired this week by the Cleveland Cavaliers. She will work for new Cavs coach John Beilein and alongside associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, a veteran of two NBA head-coaching stints.
Kerr has gotten to know Gottlieb, in part because two of his kids — daughter Maddy (volleyball) and son Nick (basketball) — played at Cal. Gottlieb also has attended several Warriors practices, he said.
Kerr, interviewed on the eve of the Warriors’ Game 6 showdown vs. Toronto in the NBA Finals, said he thinks Gottlieb has the right makeup for the assignment.
“She’s got this great zest for life,” he said. “So much of coaching is you want people who are fun to be around, who love the game, who love life, who love being part of a group. And she’s all that.”
Gottlieb isn’t the first woman to be hired as an NBA assistant — that distinction belongs to Becky Hammon, who has worked the past five seasons for the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich. But Gottlieb is the first women’s college coach to jump to a position on an NBA coaching staff.
The age-old question facing women coaches in the NBA is whether young male players will respect them, listen and take coaching from them.
With Gottlieb’s hiring coming just days after former WNBA star Swin Cash was named Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development for the New Orleans Pelicans, Kerr sees things gradually changing.
“I think that’s part of the process. As more women begin to join staffs, there will be less and less of an issue. But at first, yeah,” he said. “The Spurs, with Becky Hammon sort of paving the way for Lindsay and Swin, I think it all helps.
“It’s like anything else, you need the first few steps to be taken to really initiate change and hopefully this is what’s going to happen.”
Draymond Green was asked whether he’d ever been coached by a woman and he said he couldn’t remember it happening. But he’s not sure it will be an obstacle for most players.
“Becky Hammon has been in the league. There are a few more,” Green said. “So I think that barrier has been broken.”