The Westchester Knicks have hired former New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks guard Lisa C. Willis as an assistant coach, making the Knicks the latest in a string of NBA franchises to start adding women to their roster of coaches.
The news was first reported Sunday evening by SNY’s Ian Begley, and on Monday the W-Knicks made things official with a press release announcing the addition of two assistant coaches: Willis and Allen Deep.
Willis is one of a growing number of women who hold important positions for basketball teams. That list is highlighted by former WNBA stars like Becky Hammon and Kristi Toliver, who are assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards, respectively.
The increasing amount of women sitting on the sidelines for NBA teams is a welcome sight — the folks at Swish Appeal recently broke down the ladies currently in basketball-related positions of power throughout the league, broken down by conference (East, West) — and it’s nice to see the Knicks join in on the trend, even if it’s just at the G-League level for now.
This is certainly a better look for the franchise than that time Anucha Browne Sanders sued Isiah Thomas, James Dolan and Madison Square Garden for sexual harassment, discrimination and more back in 2006.
Quick aside: Steve Mills, who currently holds the title of president for the Knicks, is the guy that hired Browne Sanders in 2000, according to a Knicks Film School review of the lawsuit from earlier this year. Mills was executive vice-president for franchise operations at Madison Square Garden at the time, and he has certainly climbed up the totem pole in the years since. He not only survives every front office failure, but thrives in their aftermath.
Let’s get back to the matter at hand, which is actually a positive development for the Knickerbockers franchise as a whole. Willis represents the first female coach the team has ever hired. She nabbed the gig after completing the NBA’s Assistant Coaches Program, or ACP, which provides former NBA, WNBA and NBA G-League players with education meant to prepare them for coaching or front office opportunities.
In Willis, the W-Knicks get a 35-year-old California native who played four seasons in the WNBA. Defense and three-point shooting were her main attributes as a player. She shot almost 40 percent from deep for her career, which started in 2006 when the Sparks took her with the fifth overall draft pick. She played stints with the Liberty and Sparks, plus two games with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2009. Before she was a professional baller, Willis had a wonderful college career at UCLA. When she graduated, she led the school in all-time threes made, ranked ninth in all-time points scored and second all-time in steals, according to the above-referenced Begley article.
Willis herself is pumped to coach the W-Knicks, which in recent years has felt like it was essentially a separate arm of the NBA Knicks. A lot of players cycled back and forth from the Knicks to the W-Knicks, and both teams have generally been completely inferior to any of the actually good NBA teams.
If you’re interested in how she might look to motivate her players, check out one of the many motivational clips Willis has posted on her YouTube channel.
The hiring of the two new assistant coaches comes a couple months after the W-Knicks announced a new head coach: Derrick Alston. The team’s previous coach, Mike Miller, is now an assistant coach for David Fizdale. Fizdale currently has Frank Ntilikina chained to the bench and the key is somewhere in his pocket.
Fizdale wants to let DSJ keep playing to fight his way back into a rhythm. Said Ntilikina is in his “pocket.”— Chris Iseman (@ChrisIseman) October 26, 2019
But we’re here to celebrate the franchise’s first foray into the world of women in coaching positions, not lament what is happening with the big league team.
The W-Knicks open their season on Nov. 9 against the Raptors 905. All the info you need on the team, including their schedule and some notes about the players on the roster, can be found here. Let’s go W-Knicks!