When a coach excels in coaching, for example women’s basketball, why is the coach encouraged or challenged to try a hand at coaching men?
This pattern of comparison has happened a few times this year, ironically to two of the most successful coaches in women’s collegiate basketball. Most recently, Geno Auriemma (Head Coach of the UConn Women’s Basketball team and current National Champions) was praised by Bobby Knight after Tuesday’s championship game. Knight said in response to Auriemma’s sixth national title in women’s basketball, “The guy is really, really a good coach. One of the best that I’ve ever seen in the game of basketball.” Knight went on to say that Auriemma is so good, he could even coach men. When Tennessee Lady Vol Head Coach Pat Summitt won her 1,000th game this year, adding to the fact she has the most wins of ANY coach in college basketball, some argued she is “so good” she should or could coach men. (Ironically I don’t think Knight had similar praise for Summit’s achievements) I have NEVER heard the reverse, such as, “John Calipari is so good, he should consider coaching the women,” or “Roy Williams has won a couple national championships on the men’s side, he could even coach women.” Why?—because this would be perceived as a ludicrous step backwards.
Assuming Auriemma or Summitt would want to coach men, suggesting they could or should is insulting, not complimentary. Such statements are based on the assumption that coaching men is the “real game”, the pinnacle, or more rewarding than coaching women. It also implies that a coach hasn’t “made it” unless s/he has coached men and constructs the women’s game as less valued and important. Similarly, it suggests that coaching men is more difficult and challenging, takes away from the accomplishments of successful coaches in the women’s game, and marginalizes their coaching achievements. Instead of speculation and comparison, let us simply celebrate and applaud their accomplishments.