Lisa Willis becomes first female coach in New York Knicks’ 73-year history

Mohammed Awal February 10, 2020
Image credit: LoHud

Lisa Camille Willis has made history as the first woman ever to become an assistant coach for the Westchester Knicks. Westchester Knicks is a G League teach franchise of the NBA’s New York Knicks.

Willis is a former WNBA player who played for New York Liberty and Los Angeles. 

Willis, according to Black History, reached great levels of success during her playing career. 

She won a basketball scholarship to UCLA and went on to become an all-time 3-point shooter and a leader in steals during her college career, the Black History website reports. During her time at UCLA, from 2002-2006, she accumulated 1,677 points.

The youngest of five kids, when Willis was eight, she always went to her brother’s basketball games and attended the tournaments of the middle school team her father coached, according to LoHud.

“I was the naughty coach’s kid, running all over the court trying to shoot baskets at timeouts. I might’ve been like 6 or 7, just shooting baskets,” LoHud quoted Willis as saying. 

Willis would further go to win PAC12 Defensive Player of the Year, PAC12 Tournament MVP, as well as a gold medal playing for the USA women’s basketball team. 

In 2006, she was the 5th overall pick in the WNBA and went on to become a 3-point leader for the Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty and the Sacramento Monarchs, reports Black History.

 Willis is the first female coach in the franchise’s 73-year history as there are 11 women on NBA benches as an assistant or player development coaches this season and two, including her, in the NBA G League. 

She joins the list highlighted by former WNBA stars like Becky Hammon and Kristi Toliver, who are assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards, respectively.

“I’ve found that my knowledge actually goes a long way because a lot of guys have just been athletic for so long and I’m teaching them little tricks on how to be a better defender, how to be a better shooter,” Willis told LoHud.

Willis said her coaching style is based on the way “I received criticism, I received praise, even the way that I felt as a player.”

She added: “So there are some things that I felt as a player that I never want anybody under my tutelage to feel. My coaching style is heavily influenced by my player experience.”

According to Willis, she never really wanted to be a coach, “but with everything that was going on in my life, I thought if I went away and tried to explore this one, I can see if I liked coaching.”

For her, it was about just moving forward as “sometimes life doesn’t go as you planned, but you can’t stop trying to move forward and evolve. I didn’t want to be Lisa Willis, number 40 who can’t get a job, who’s injured.”

Willis was the head coach at Montreat when she joined the NBA’s Assistant Coaches Program, which provides an educational conduit for former NBA, WNBA, and NBA G League players for coaching and front office opportunities.

She interviewed with the Westchester Knicks for a position after she completed the five-month program and was offered.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: February 10, 2020


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