No Fancy Name
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
today's sports outrage
I am a hardcore sports fan. I'm not so hard core as those Raider Nation folks who dress up and paint their faces, and I don't have the cash to go to games, but I care about sports and thoroughly read the sports page/ every day. From t-ball to indy cars to horse racing, if it's got people, animals or cars competing against one another, I'm all over it. I am also a girl, and I've heard that since I'm a girl and I like sports that I must automatically enjoy and support women's sports. That's a pet peeve I'll write about another day. I enjoy well-played sports...that means well-played women's sports and well-played men's sports, but NOT poorly-executed women's sports or poorly-executed men's sports. I'm an equal opportunity hater when it comes to that.

I'm all for equality. Title IX is a good thing. Women should have the same opportunities as men, etc. But my outrage of the day is this: Ashley McElhiney to Coach Nashville Rhythm. Ashley McElhiney is a woman. The Nashville Rhythm is a men's ABA (read "very minor league") team. If Ashley McElhiney came to the table with head coaching experience, assistant coaching experience, even rec-league manager experience, I wouldn't be so outraged. But Ashley McElhiney is a 22 year old former D1 point guard, with no coaching experience, let alone with men.

When something like this happens, a hiring that is obviously for publicity reasons, it does not help women further themselves in the coaching profession. I'm not anti-Ashley McElhiney, even though she went to an SEC school (Vandy) and I root for ACC and Big 12 schools. From what I recall, she was a very good point guard with exceptional leadership qualities, who made her teammates better. She also didn't make the WNBA team that drafted her (Indiana), but playing at a high level doesn't necessarily correlate to coaching at a high level (Lawrence Frank). Coaching experience correlates to coaching at a high level, and this woman doesn't have it.

The Nashville Rhythm is an expansion ABA team. No doubt this hiring was meant to generate interest in the new team, and I'm sure press coverage is going to be guaranteed for all of the Nashville Rhythm games, to see how the lady coach is doing. From a marketing standpoint, that's all well and good. As a sports fan, it actually makes me care less about the team, because it appears they didn't even try to get a qualified coach. Who are the players? Not a clue (note: tryouts haven't started yet), but I sure know the coach's name.

Sally Anthony, the owner of the team, said the following in the press release:
"I've said from day one that my goal was not only to put a competitive team on the floor, but to give qualified females opportunities they are not normally afforded," Anthony said. "Ultimately, I think the Nashville Rhythm, and the ABA as a whole, can be a stepping stone for a qualified woman to coach in the NBA. If women like Carly Fiorina can successfully lead companies like Hewlett Packard, I think it's pretty clear Cheryl Miller or Nancy Lieberman could have phenomenal success leading an NBA team."

Good for her, for wanting to "give qualified females opportunities they are not normally afforded". That's wonderful. But while it's her right to hire whomever she wants, her judgment seems to be a little off when it comes to defining "qualified". All she did by hiring McElhiney was set her up for failure, and set back what would probably be a very promising career down the line -- after she paid her coaching dues. Leading Hewlett-Packard was not Carly Fiorina's first job out of college...there were at least 20 years of work at AT&T and Lucent in between. Cheryl Miller and Nancy Lierberman, sure they could coach men somewhere -- because they have enormous experience with the game and respect of the players. McElhiney doesn't have that experience, and only time will tell if she earns the respect of her players. It's unfortunate that she didn't recognize that taking this job is a recipe for disaster. If she does well, through her own ability and the play of her team, I will be the first one to say "good on ya".

The more likely outcome is that she will fail, and it will give sportswriters/radio hosts an opening to say quite loudly "see?!? women shouldn't coach men". The real point is that no one, regardless of gender, should have jobs for which they are not qualified. If Anthony really wanted to hire a women to coach her team, I can think of a dozen or so women off the top of my head who would have been better hires. It's unfortunate that an opportunity to do something positive regarding women and sports will likely backfire. Could've picked better, Ms. Anthony.


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