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With possibility of woman’s head coach in NBA, Stephanie Ready is precursor

boxtorow.com

Stephanie Ready knows basketball. She’s also a history maker.

She is currently an analyst for the Charlotte Hornets on Fox Sports Southeast, making her the first fulltime female analyst of an NBA team.  Obviously, it didn’t start there for Ready.  Prior to her broadcast career which has now spanned 13 years, Ready was an assistant basketball coach.

Of men.

From 2001-03, Ready was the assistant coach of the NBDL Greenville Groove.  She became the first female coach of a men’s professional team, helping lead the Groove to the first-ever D League championship in 2002.  Prior to the D League, she also was an assistant coach for the Coppin State men’s basketball team for two seasons, becoming just the third woman ever to coach Division I men’s basketball.

Recently, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced he wanted to see a woman’s head coach in the NBA sooner rather than later.  Ready’s trajectory was headed in that direction.

“When I stared coaching in the D League, that was my aspiration,” said the 41-year-old Ready.  “So many things happened and life happened and you can’t really control what goes on.”

When the Groove folded in the summer of 2003, Ready was stuck in “no-man’s land,” with coaching jobs in the D League and college pretty much filled.  She ended up trying to get her feet wet in television and one thing led to another and the rest as they say is history.

Success at Coppin State
Ready is a native of Takoma Park, Md. and attended now Coppin State University in Baltimore, Md. on an academic scholarship.  She walked on to the basketball team and was a starter from day one.  She finished her career amongst the top 10 all-time at Coppin State in points, assists, rebounds and steals.  She also played volleyball for the Lady Eagles for two years.

Two weeks after graduating cum laude from Coppin, Ready was hired as the head volleyball coach at 25 years old, becoming one of the youngest coaches on the Division I level.  She had immediate success with the program, helping to snap the Lady Eagles’ 129-game losing streak.  With the success in volleyball, Fang Mitchell, who was the men’s basketball coach and athletics director at Coppin State, hired her to become an assistant for the men’s program.

“Fang Mitchell is a tremendous human being, a wonderful man, a great coach,” said Ready. “The fact that he had that much trust in my abilities, just gave me instant credibility on the recruiting path because he’s known to be a rough and tough individual.  If I could handle working for him, then people took me seriously.”

‘Dream job’
Despite winning the first D League championship and the success that the Greenville Groove was having with Milton Barnes as the head coach and Ready as the only assistant, the team folded prior to the 2004-05 season after two seasons.  It left Ready in a precarious position with most coaching vacancies filled.  She was given the opportunity to do a couple of games for ESPN and sent her video, “which was not very good,” to the coordinating producer for men’s college basketball at ESPN.  She eventually did some sideline reporting for women’s college basketball.

Not knowing where television would lead her she again jumped into coaching, this time as an assistant coach with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA in the summer of 2004.  Just as the season ended, she was offered the sideline reporter position for the expansion Charlotte Bobcats for the 2004-05 season and has been with the Charlotte organization ever since.

“I literally have my dream job,” said Ready.  “I get to watch NBA basketball, sit courtside, have friends that are players, coaches and executives and I get to talk about basketball for a living.  I mean, just think about that? That’s like a dream come true for a child who didn’t even know that it was a possibility.”

A Pioneer
As for Silver’s comments about a woman head coach in the NBA? “I’m not throwing my hat in the ring,” ready says.  “I love what I do.”  Ready says it would be thrilling for whoever that person would be to get that position.

Ready has experienced some sexism throughout her career, but never with the people she’s worked with.  She has had her share of people post crass and rude things on social media.  Ready, who is married and has two young children, is saddened that people would place their negative thoughts about her on their children.  She takes pride however in the fact that her children have seen and heard about her achievements.

“People used to ask me was me coaching men a gimmick? It’s not a crazy idea.  I never considered myself a pioneer because I feel like I have more to do.  Whenever a woman becomes head coach I will be proud to have helped lay the groundwork.  Women can coach men and gender should not restrict those opportunities.”

Indeed.