In the NBA, we have seen women take a number of notable strides in the past several months. During the 2014 NBA Summer League, Natalie Nakase served as an assistant coach on the Los Angeles Clippers' summer league squad after serving the previous two seasons as a video intern. Nakase played her college basketball at UCLA, and served as a head coach of a Japanese men's professional basketball team before coming to the Clippers.
Later that month, the San Antonio Spurs hired then-San Antonio Stars guard Becky Hammon as a full-time assistant coach, the first woman in the history of the league. As she enters her first season on the Spurs' bench, Hammon told the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe that this is what she plans to do:
I'm not in charge of changing anybody's mind. I'm not in charge of changing anybody's perspective. I'm in charge of myself and being responsible for the task I've been given. You just do the right thing, and you work your butt off, and you value character, and you value relationships."
While there is a lot of buzz surrounding Hammon being an NBA assistant coach, possibly even better than that at some point, she is certainly not alone. Seattle Storm associate head coach Jenny Boucek will spend much of the offseason with the Dallas Mavericks, where she will be an unofficial assistant coach on the staff.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has praised Boucek where he declared in another piece to Monroe that she will "be the next female NBA assistant coach. She's the most qualified." This is isn't the first time that Boucek has had a chance to work with Carlisle, who like Carlisle graduated from the University of Virginia. She struck up a professional relationship with him and had a chance to work with the Mavericks in 2011. She also served as an advance scout for the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2006-07 NBA season per the Storm's website.
NBA teams are also inviting current WNBA players to observe practices. Los Angeles Sparks guard Lindsey Harding observed the Toronto Raptors' training camp in Vancouver, British Columbia. It just so happens that she had a chance to work extensively with Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey, who was an assistant coach with the Mavericks when Boucek was working with him.
More women may be in line to take NBA coaching positions in the future, but hiring any coach is also about fit. Casey told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star that "I think that’s a thing of the future, I think our league is becoming a blind-to-gender league (but) you have to have the right personality, the right approach, right knowledge to get the respect of the players."
One area where women have been in the NBA for many years is officiating. Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner were the first two women to become NBA referees in 1997. Though Kantner was terminated in 2002 for performance issues (she is currently the WNBA's supervisor of officials), Palmer has remained with the NBA.
More on Holtkamp
More on Holtkamp
At the same time, no additional women have become full-time NBA referees until this season, when NBA D-League/WNBA referee Lauren Holtkamp became the NBA's third female full-time referee. Holtkamp previously served in the D-League for five seasons in its training program before being called up to the NBA. In the 2012-13 and 2013-14 NBA seasons, she served as an NBA non-staff official.
Holtkamp was also featured in CBS Documentary "Summer Dreams" which showed her journey during the 2013 NBA Summer League. You can buy and watch it on Amazon, and it's a really good show to watch.
With more women getting positions on NBA teams as coaches or officials, it leads to this question: When will we see a game where two NBA teams are playing each other with women coaching on the sidelines, and where the three officials in the game also happen to be women?
I don't see this happening in the next year or two. The biggest roadblock appears to be the quantity of qualified coaches and officials in consideration. And there needs to be more women on NBA teams' coaching staffs and officiating in the D-League. That is going to take time as there are more qualified female candidates working up the ranks as coaches and officials. Still even with that in mind, it wouldn't surprise me to see a future NBA game where that happens.