Kara Lawson is known for her phenomenal basketball play in college, the WNBA, and being a sports analyst. Her accomplishments don’t stop there, as she has also been a pioneer in the NBA coaching world for not only women — but women of color.
Now, as of Saturday, she will be taking her abilities to Duke as she embarks on a new chapter as a head coach. Not only will it be her first stint as a head coach, but Kara will also lead the Blue Devils as the program’s first Black coach.
On Monday during a zoom press conference introducing her as the new coach, Kara described how growing up, ironically, Duke was the university her mother wanted her to attend. However, she chose to play for the late-great Pat Summitt and shared what she feels would have been her legendary coaches’ reaction to her taking the position.
“My mom wanted me to go to Duke, my dad wanted me to go to Stanford and I picked Tennessee. What would Coach [Pat] Summitt say to me? Oh man … I think she would be really excited,” stated Lawson. “She obviously knew it was a goal of mine to become a coach. That was why I went to play for her because I wanted to learn from the best. That was what led me to Knoxville. I could not have had a better experience playing for her, learning from her and I think she would be pretty excited. I don’t know if she would be wearing blue … she would probably be on this call, but she would be so happy. Any time you watch one of your players as a coach achieve a dream of theirs, it is something really fulfilling. I think she would be smiling.”
She further went on share how she has always wanted to be a coach.
“I knew I wanted to coach, but a lot of this is timing and being in the right situation to learn and grow. I knew it would happen later because I was playing for 13 years in the WNBA and didn’t want to coach at that time. I wanted to put everything I had into playing and that’s what I did. I didn’t become focused on coaching until I finished my playing career.
During the presser, Lawson shared with reporters how a few months ago, she confided in Celtics head coach Brad Stevens on her goals which included coaching at Duke — a position at the time that was not open.
“I will say one of the places I would have loved to have an opportunity to coach was for Duke. I didn’t share that with very many people. I knew if it ever came open, I would put my best foot forward and try to secure the position. That’s how highly I thought of the institution and the job. I certainly had no idea it would happen a year after I went to Boston, but when the right opportunity comes along, you must take it.”
As she continued, Kara held back tears as she spoke very highly of the Celtics organization. “I never felt alone. I never felt like I stuck out. Relationships make basketball special. I’m with the players every day; they’re special… the team is special,” Lawson stated during the zoom interview Monday afternoon.
As many are anxious to know the reactions of her NBA players as she heads into the next chapter, Kara shared they were so happy for her. She even went as far as to say, “Jalen Brown said he never thought he would cheer for Duke but he will be doing so once she arrives.”
Also on the call was Athletic Director Kevin White and Senior Deputy Director of Athletics Nina King. Both spoke highly of Kara, mentioning how Lawson is a “perfect fit” to take over at Duke and the adaptability she possesses.
King stated that the university was looking for a “contemporary leader” and they loved that Kara was “a relationship person, teacher, mentor, and leader.”
Kara is a champion that embodied a champion mentality no matter where she was.
Duke’s hiring of Lawson is a very historical one. As we all know, diversity is a huge topic these days — seeing as we are all living in a historic time. When asked how she felt about being able to join the Duke organization and represent women and minorities, Kara shared that she was” more than ready for the challenge.”
“I am excited for all the women and their opportunities. I’m friends with all of them and we know each other from being part of the basketball family,” Kara elaborated on. “I spoke with Dawn Staley and Tina Thompson – those are people I have known for a long time from either playing with or against. Dawn coached me in USA Basketball. My priority right now is getting to know our players and recruits. That’s what I’ve been spending most of my time doing.”
While it is still early to say considering Lawson hasn’t yet met with her team, Coach Lawson expressed that she would not comment on who her team would be or how they would play this season in terms of style of play. She will allow them to take the time to figure out what works for the players and coaches that she will have in the upcoming season.
“I am not going to make any statements of what we are going to do and who we are going to be but I am going to figure out what works for us and strive to master that. If you keep it simple in terms of your goals that gives you a chance to really achieve them.”
As far as what the future holds, my prediction is that Kara Lawson will continue to raise the bar at Duke and continue her journey of success.