Eleven years after she was the first overall pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft, Lindsey Harding’s about to embark on the next step in her basketball career: crossing over into the NBA as a full-time scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
After retiring from professional hoops in 2017 following nine WNBA seasons, along with stints in Turkey, Lithuania and Russia, Harding — who four years back worked as an assistant coach on the Toronto Raptors’ summer league squad — enrolled in the NBA’s Basketball Operations Associates Program. Announced back in 2016, the new initiative aims to help former players interested in transitioning to front-office roles to develop the skills and connections that could help them get on the executive track (and, by extension, to increase diversity in front offices around the league).
Scouting work’s her way into the NBA, but the decorated pro point guard told Shelburne that she envisions a future as a front-office decision-maker, and that’s a future that Philly is eager to help her reach:
“I would love to be in the front office and really understand how to put a team together,” she said. “I still love being on the floor and having the opportunity to coach. But I really just wanted to get my foot in the door.” […]
“Lindsey has quickly become one of the game’s bright young minds in basketball operations,” [76ers head coach and interim general manager Brett] Brown said. “Having graduated from the NBA’s Basketball Operations Associates Program last season, Lindsey is applying the same grit and basketball IQ she used as a player in her move to the front office. We look forward to the work Lindsey will do to help grow our program and further solidify a culture of winning.”
The former Duke standout is not the first ex-WNBA player to make the jump to an NBA scouting gig. According to Shelburne, ex-Cleveland Rockers guard Jenny Boucek did some advance scouting work for the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006; later, after head coaching stints with the Sacramento Monarchs and Seattle Storm, Boucek moved back to the NBA as a player development coach with the Sacramento Kings last season, and will serve on Rick Carlisle’s staff with the Dallas Mavericks this year. Boucek is one of three women who will open the 2018-19 NBA season as assistant coaches, along with fellow former WNBA star Becky Hammon, now a mainstay with the San Antonio Spurs, and Natalie Nakase, who has worked her way up through the ranks and into a position with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The lives of NBA scouts and assistant coaches are far from glamorous. They’re filled with long hours, tons of travel and grunt work, and unrelenting focus on poring over all manner of minutiae and nitty-gritty details, looking for ways to help better prepare players for the matchups ahead. The people who do this work aren’t searching for glory; they’re searching for the slightest possible edge, anywhere they can find it, in hopes that enough of those stacked together can will make the difference between winning and losing. They’re die-hards, lifers, grinders … and, thanks to the continued work of people like Harding and her predecessors, and teams like the Sixers willing to extend them opportunities, the makeup of the profession is starting to change, bit by bit.
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