July 12, 2020 

Kara Lawson named Duke women’s basketball head coach

Lawson was named the program's fifth women's basketball head coach Saturday and becomes the third Black woman to coach in the ACC.

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Kara Lawson was officially named Duke women’s basketball head coach Saturday after news had been circling of the hire last week.

Lawson, who was most recently working with NBA’s Boston Celtics as an assistant coach, became Duke’s fifth head coach and the first Black woman to coach in the program’s history. She’s the third Black woman to coach in the ACC. She joined Virginia’s Tina Thompson and Notre Dame’s Niele Ivey; all three hires were in the last year, dating back to May 2019, and both Lawson and Ivey are former WNBA players.

“Well, it is a dream come true for me,” Lawson said in a press release announcing her hire.  “I have wanted to be a coach since I was a kid. To have an opportunity to lead a group of young women at a prestigious university like Duke – I have run out of words; it is unbelievable and very exciting. …

“Everybody I spoke with and had a chance to interact with, I immediately felt a great connection.  It wasn’t a decision based on emotion, but there was a lot of emotion involved in it because of how excited I am and how ready I am to get started and to work with the players.”

Lawson, 39, has extremely rich ties to the game. She was a four-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-America at Tennessee then went on to play 13 seasons in the WNBA. She spent time with the Sacramento Monarchs, who dissolved in 2009, Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics. Lawson paved the way for women off the court as well.

After her seasoned playing career, Lawson spent two seasons as a television analyst for the NBA’s Washington Wizards. She had radio spots on ESPN and captivated audiences with her sharp analysis and witty commentary. Lawson also served as a game and studio analyst for men’s and women’s college basketball and the NBA for ESPN; she became the first female analyst for a nationally-televised NBA game in January 2007.

Lawson will replace Joanne P. McCallie, who announced at the beginning of July she wouldn’t return after 13 seasons at the helm of the program.

“A highly-seasoned champion at multiple levels within the basketball landscape, Kara Lawson is the ideal fit for Duke University,” athletic director Kevin White said in the school’s statement. “Throughout the process, it became abundantly clear that her authenticity, passion, contemporary vision and unwavering commitment to the student-athlete experience align seamlessly with the values of the institution.

“With her high degree of emotional intelligence, Kara’s astute ability to connect with future, current and former student-athletes, as well as the passionate and dedicated supporters of Duke women’s basketball, will have an immediate and profound impact on the entire program.”

The Blue Devils quickly returned to prominence after the first few years of McCallie’s tenure. Duke won at least a share of the regular-season title four times in her first six seasons. McCallie’s teams also won three ACC tournament titles during that span. Some of Duke’s luster, however, began to wear off when Louisville and Notre Dame joined the conference.

“Kara has proven herself as a skilled coach and a committed mentor, whose passion for education is demonstrated by her service on her alma mater’s board of trustees,” Duke president Vincent E. Price said.  “I am thrilled that she will be bringing these talents to Duke, and I know that she will support the continued success of our women’s basketball student-athletes both on the court and off.”

Social media reacted in droves, congratulating Lawson and expressing excitement for the new era of Duke basketball.

Written by Alexis Mansanarez

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