Women filling NBA jobs are about to hit a fast break

Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during the Commissioner Press Conference at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during the Commissioner Press Conference at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Recent events have shown National Basketball Association fans that not only is the league ready for more women in positions of power, but that it’s a point of focus for the biggest basketball brand in the world.

Women filling NBA jobs of a high-profile nature started in 2012 when Violet Palmer became the league’s first-ever female official. A year later, the death of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss gave the control of the franchise to his daughter, Jeanie.

It was taken to the next level in 2014 when Michele Roberts was elected the executive director of the NBA Players Association. Then a major development on the team side occurred, as Becky Hammon was hired as an assistant coach by the San Antonio Spurs about a month later. About a year later, Nancy Lieberman joined Hammon among the ranks of NBA assistant coaches, getting hired by the Sacramento Kings.

Along the way, women have been filling jobs in departments like communications, ticketing, game operations, creative design and sales for individual NBA franchises in great numbers. As remarkable as all those moments have been, there have been two recent developments that should be a signal to fans that women taking positions of power in the NBA are about to get out and run.

Last month, two women came into full control of arguably the NBA’s most powerful franchise. Jeanie Buss weathered a legal challenge from her brothers to her position of control of the Lakers. After her victory, she replaced her brother Jim with her sister Janie on the team’s board of directors. Nearly in concert with the news about the Lakers, Commissioner Adam Silver did an interview with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, in which he made a comment of note:

"“There definitely will,” Silver said when asked about a woman becoming an NBA head coach. “And I think it is on me to sort of ensure that it happens sooner rather than later.”"

When considering the context of the growing movement of women filling NBA jobs, the significance of Silver’s comments and the NBA’s renewal of its ad campaign with Leanin.org can’t be ignored.

The theme of the ad campaign is that men, as traditional bastions of influence in industries such as the NBA, have a responsibility to ensure that women get legitimate chances to not only break into various industries but advance as well. As the league commissioner, Silver stated that he intends to lead by example in the NBA.

In an ideal world, the ad campaign and the statement that Silver made wouldn’t exist. True gender equality means that neither men nor women are given preferential consideration for a job because of their genders. People would be hired and promoted simply because they are the best candidates for the jobs.

The world isn’t perfect, however. Women have been disadvantaged in terms of being hired and promoted for the majority of the history of western civilization. If those disadvantages aren’t recognized and confronted, progress won’t happen. The NBA under Silver’s direction is addressing that need.

It’s uncertain right now whether or not fans will see women interviewing for the various head coaching jobs that will become vacant this summer. If it does happen this year, fans shouldn’t be surprised. Momentum toward that has been building for years.

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When that day comes that the first NBA team hires a female head coach, or when we see other glass ceilings broken like a female league commissioner, it will be because she is the best candidate for the job. The league will have gotten to that point because of the work of Silver and the women who have come before these future job holders.

As Silver has said, expect these events to take place sooner rather than later.