Kings assistant Lindsey Harding: 'Fear of unknown,' not lack of respect, holding women back in NBA

Yahoo Sports Contributor
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Newly-hired Kings assistant <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1176253/" data-ylk="slk:Lindsey Harding">Lindsey Harding</a> has never had an issue earning respect from NBA players. That comes almost automatically. (AP/Chris Szagola)
Newly-hired Kings assistant Lindsey Harding has never had an issue earning respect from NBA players. That comes almost automatically. (AP/Chris Szagola)

Lindsey Harding was hired by the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach this summer, marking just the latest female coach to land a spot on an NBA bench.

The former Duke standout and nine-year WNBA veteran spent last season as a player development coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, and has worked in numerous other positions in the league since she retired from the WNBA in 2016.

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She’s now one of several female assistants in the NBA, joining Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs, Lindsey Gotlieb of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kristi Toliver of the Washington Wizards, among others. The league, though, has yet to have its first female head coach.

That, though, has nothing to do with the lack of respect some seem to think a female coach would get from her players. Instead, Harding said, it’s simply “being afraid of the unknown.”

“The question is always, ‘Will the guys respect you? Can [women] coach men?’ But when you get [to the NBA], the guys aren't the problem at all,” Harding said, via ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That's the most fun part.

“I think the whole thing is just being uncomfortable, or being comfortable in the unknown.”

Harding said that it doesn’t take long to earn the respect of players in the league. She’s made several great relationships with players throughout her time in the league, including 76ers guard T.J. McConnell and former 76ers star Jimmy Butler.

Once she has an initial conversation with players in the league, explaining who she is and her background in the sport, there’s an “automatic respect,” almost as if she’d been an NBA player herself.

“I think if you speak to any other woman that is coaching here, they would say the same thing about the players,” Harding said, via ESPN. “They've been fantastic. The players have never been the issue. I guess it's just being afraid of the unknown.

“Because you can't say we don't know basketball when you have someone who has played in the WNBA or played professionally [overseas] for years, you can't really say that.”

While the league has yet to see its first female head coach, Harding knows that time is coming.

After all, coaching is just like every other job in history.

“This isn't the only job in the world that was difficult for women to break through," Harding said, via ESPN. “At one point, with every job, there was only one woman doing it, and then eventually other women start doing it.

“I mean, you don't think twice now when you see a female doctor.”

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