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.
“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.
“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.