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Outside the Lines:
Women Coaching Men


Here's the transcript from Show 81 of weekly Outside The Lines - Women Coaching Men

SUN., OCT. 14, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by: Bob Ley
Guests: Carolyn Peck, General Manager and Head Coach, WNBA Orlando Miracle
Tony DiCicco, former head coach, U.S. women's national soccer team general manager
Debbie Schlussel, columnist,

Bob Ley, host - Is this as simple as a Vince Lombardi power sweep, or is it truly as complicated as Freudian psychology? Just as we're used to the reality of Title Nine equality, and the idea that while it's certainly all right for men to coach women, the trend certainly is for women to be running those teams. Just as all of that becomes the norm, along comes the question of women coaching men.

It will happen for the first time in professional basketball this season; 25-year-old Stephanie Ready joins the NBA new Developmental League as an assistant coach in Greenville, South Carolina. Ready had been coaching men as an assistant at Coppin State in Maryland. Now, she is cast as a pioneer.

Yet in U.S. high schools, increasingly women do coach boys teams, following a career path, gaining experience, applying for better jobs, hoping to be accepted at face value for their ability. As we shall see this morning in the story of a woman coaching in suburban Detroit, what appears so simple can be anything but.

Geri Fuhr, Hazel Park girls varsity basketball coach - Pick up the pace, let's go!

Ley - Geri Fuhr is in her 13th season coaching the girls' varsity at Hazel Park High school.

Fuhr - Way to take it in! Good pass, good pass!

Ley - But perhaps not for long. This could be her final team picture with her girls. Geri Fuhr wants to coach the boys varsity.

Fuhr - It's very important that, if you have a dream, to strive to achieve it. And I don't think that people should take people's dreams away.

Ley - Her dream began in 1990, when she took on the challenge of coaching both the girls varsity and boys junior varsity teams.

Fuhr - I thought to myself, after my first season, wow, I'd really like to be the varsity boys coach some day.

Ley - That moment arrived two years ago, when the boys job opened up. Fuhr applied, as did John Barnett, the freshman boys coach, who had just completed his second year in coaching. Fuhr's records with the boys JV, overall, was slightly above .500, but she had just completed a four-year stretch winning three championships.

Dave Eldred, Athletic Director (1961-1999), Hazel Park HS - In my mind, it was a no-brainer. She was ready. There was no reason, I thought, in my mind, that she should not have the job.

James Meisinger, Principal, Hazel Park HS - I thought it was almost a forgone conclusion that she was going to be named the varsity coach. And when I found out at the last minute that she wasn't going to be named as the varsity coach, I was upset.

Fuhr - Well when I was told, I specifically said, well why? "Well, we've decided to give it to John." And I said, who did? "The committee." And I said, I don't think everybody on the committee decided to do that.

Ley - Dave Eldred, the school's athletic director, was on that committee. Even though he was about to retire, he fully expected to vote on the job opening.

Eldred - Approximately a half hour before the meeting was to take place, the district athletic director came to my office and informed me that I was not going to be included in the meeting. I suspect that probably they wanted to get rid of my voice.

Ley - The district athletic director, Dan Grant, declined to speak with Outside The Lines. It was Grant who informed Fuhr she was not getting the boys varsity job.

Fuhr - I said, it must be because I'm a woman. And the person just went like that, and walked off.

Eldred - I had the feeling in my own heart that it was because she was a female.

Tom Pratt, Athletic Director, Hazel Park HS - One thing I feel confident about - Gender had nothing to do with the decision.

Ley - Tom Pratt became the school's athletic director shortly after Fuhr was rejected as boys' coach.

Pratt - I feel good about the decision the district made. I think it was the best decision. Best decision for the kids and, at that time, I thought the best decision for Ms. Fuhr too. Most people never would have sued over this, I don't think.

Fuhr - Well, I can't even explain how painful that was. And I think it really jolted my belief system, I guess.

Deb Gordon, Geri Fuhr's attorney - Geri is a very optimistic person, in some ways naive. And she had a view of the world, if you do good and you do the right thing, it will all pay off. And to undercut her and give the job to somebody who really, with all due respect to Mr. Barnett, he's just too inexperienced. He hasn't done anything at the school.

Ley - Geri Fuhr sued, alleging sexual discrimination. Among the exhibits at her August trial was a chart detailing her professional accomplishments compared to those of the man who was hired. The display outraged school officials.

Pratt - Extremely unfair, John could have easily -- and in court we did spell out, all the things that John had done similar to what Geri had done. And Geri has done some amazing things. She carried the Olympic torch, and I think that's just very admirable. But it has nothing to do with coaching basketball.

Ley - Despite that local honor, as a coach, a school official testified, Fuhr's career record with the girls varsity was around .500.

Fuhr - Time out, time out, time out!

We need to be more intense, they're just like doing whatever they want on us.

Ley - The school district argued against Fuhr coaching both the boys and girls varsities. In fact, said the school, Fuhr herself was practicing sexual discrimination.

Pratt - If Geri was the best coach and we moved her to the boys program because she was the best coach, that would be gender bias.

Vic Mayo, Superintendent, Hazel Park Schools - We have a clear record that this is not a good old boys area. That we have, really, equal gender treatment across the board.

Ley - Of the head coaches at Hazel Park High School, 11 are women, 10 are men, and two of the women coach boys teams.

Mayo - We don't have a problem, and that's why people around here are just shaking their heads over this decision.

Ley - In August, an all-female jury found the Hazel Park School District guilty of sexual discrimination and awarded Fuhr $455,000.

Gordon - By the way, one of the jurors told me afterwards, we were shocked that you asked us for so little money.

Mayo - That's just shocking to all of us, and should be shocking to everyone. Because what this says is that we don't have the ability to hire a person that we feel is best for a program. John Barnett was the best person to develop morale with these boys.

Ley - John Barnett declined to speak with Outside The Lines.

Wednesday, the other shoe fell in Geri Fuhr's court case.

Fuhr - I'm nervous, really nervous. I've been waiting for this day for two years and five months.

Ley - The judge was about to rule whether Fuhr would be awarded the boys head coaching job. Barnett's record in his two seasons in that job - six wins, 36 defeats. Federal Judge George Stee ordered that Geri Fuhr become the boys varsity head coach.

Fuhr - I'm still kind of in shock, to be honest with you. I'm like -- I'm in awe. I'm so happy. But I'm also so -- I'm relieved, I feel a little at peace. I'm tired; it's been a long haul.

Ley - And it's not over. Even though Fuhr went directly from the courthouse to girls practice, where she received a heroes reception...

Unidentified Females - Congratulations!

Ley - ... she has yet to officially accept the boys head coaching job, in an atmosphere at the school that has not improved since her court victory.

Eldred - I tried to mentor her a little bit, in terms of what she was getting into; that she was going to create enemies, that it was going to be very tough in the workplace for her.

Pratt - Parents and kids can be cruel, and if we start losing and they know this was forced by the court, there's going to be people that are going to be blaming her unjustly or justly, whichever would be the case, they're going to blame her either way. And they're going to be vocal, and it's going to be -- it could be a long winter.

Ley - Geri Fuhr still intends to accept the boys head coaching job. She maintains her battle is not about money. Within the next two weeks, her trial judge will reduce that $455,000 award. That's a normal procedure in such a case. She is asking for a $40,000 reduction, but the judge has indicated it could be over $200,000. The Hazel Park School District may now also prevent her from coaching both the boys and girls varsities. Fuhr has said if forced to choose, she would coach the boys team.

Next we'll consider the issue of men coaching women with a WNBA coach with an interest in working in the NBA, the man who coached American women to Olympic gold and a World Cup Championship, and a columnist who believes women have no place at all coaching men.

Ley - Stephanie Ready will make history this fall as the first woman to coach a men's professional team, assisting in the NBA's Development League. At the small college level, Carrie McTierman was head coach of the men's team at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. That for several seasons in the late '90s.

Bernadette Lott-Madox is now the Kentucky women's coach. But from 1990 to '94, she worked on Rick Pitino's staff as an assistant coach for the Kentucky men's program, at the top of the college game.

Rick Pitino - She played a big part in our success, not only recruiting but on the court. So we -- Bernadette -- we didn't look at her as, obviously being a female, we looked at her as being a coach.

The only thing difficult about it is breaking the barrier, getting into it. Once you get your foot in the door, then it's like anything else, you prove your abilities by the way you teach and the way you coach, and the way you recruit. So it's getting the foot in the door that's the key, and someone giving women the opportunity to coach men.

Ley - Do those opportunities exist? Well here are the latest NCAA numbers, all three divisions, only three percent of men's collegiate teams are coached by women. No basketball teams at any level -- no men's teams -- have a women head coach.

And to consider this issue, we say good morning to Carolyn Peck. When she coached at Purdue University, she lead the Boilermakers to the 1999 NCAA Women's Championship. And for the past three seasons she has been the head coach and general manager of the WNBA's Orlando Miracles. She joins us this morning from Heathrow, Florida.

Tony DiCicco is the commissioner of the WUSA, the Women's Pro Soccer league. And as coach of the USA Women's National Team, he lead that squad to Olympic Gold in Atlanta. And to the landmark 1999 World Cup Championship. He is in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Debbie Schlussel is a political commentator and a columnist and an attorney, and she joins us from Farmington Hills, Michigan. Good morning to you all.

Carolyn, is this an issue, why is it an issue? And are those opportunities opening up for women?

Carolyn Peck, Orlando Miracle head coach & general manager - Well I'm not really sure, Bob, why exactly it is an issue. Its -- coaching is a profession, it's just like running a business. And if a woman can run a business, it doesn't matter what sex you are, you are working with people. And if you could quit looking at the sex, and just look at people as human beings. I don't know why it is such a big issue.

Ley - Is it that simple Tony?

Tony DiCicco, WUSA Commissioner - Well we're in a cultural change, Bob. And I think, you know, a generation or so ago, female doctors and female attorneys and females running corporations were a little bit odd and a little bit difficult. I see this change going into the area of sports, and I do expect that in our next generation to see women coaching mens' sports right up to the professional level.

Ley - All right, Debbie, is it the same to run a corporation as a women and run a sports team?

Debbie Schlussel, columnist, - Of course not. The fact is, that this is not an area that equality is the supreme consideration. The fact is that for most boys playing sports today, many of them have been raised in single mother households. The coach is the only father figure they'll ever have. And when they have a coach like Geraldine Fuhr or Carolyn Peck who wants to coach in the NBA, they'll never have that male role model.

And that fact is that, you think that Larry Brown had problems with Allen Iverson, or P.J. Carlesimo had problems with Latrell Sprewell, just think what kind of problems they'll have when there's a woman coach. The problem is, most of these people in the NBA, themselves, have been raised by women only. Their mothers have watched "Oprah," they don't know how to be a man. They need a male role model, a male mentor, a male coach. There are a lot of things that go on in the locker room, and off the field that are equally as important as winning and losing.

DiCicco - But Debbie excuse me, can Carolyn and I make a comment please. I think that, I see what you say, and I think every male needs a male role model. And conversely, girls need female role models. But, I think we're seeing, and we're getting to a stage now, where it is not about feminine or masculine, it's about human. And some of the strengths that we identified in men in the past, aggressiveness, combativeness, assertiveness. And we identify strengths of women as relational, empathetic, compassionate.

Well I can tell you, I coached a group of women that were very aggressive, very assertive, and yet were compassionate and relational. And this is the new concept that we are going to be seeing in our leadership. And we're seeing it every day, not only in sports, but in business world.

Ley - Carolyn, let me just go to you for a second and pose the question, of Allen Iverson. It is an interesting thing to consider. Larry Brown, 35 years head coach, could a women -- I'll ask you the question, at the risk of being a chauvinist -- have handled that situation?

Peck - Well, first of all, Larry Brown was not the only coach to have coached Iverson. He's had other male coaches that were not as successful as he has been in Philadelphia. So who is to say, a women's never been given that opportunity. And it goes back to talking about the role models, yes these men do need male role models, just as these men also need female role models. As women also need male and female role models. Both men and women, we exist in this society together.

And it is a matter of education. And it is whoever can teach the best and reach people. It doesn't matter whether you are a man or a woman. Sometimes one individual reaches another individual better than others.

Schlussel - Well, Bob, let's look at Carolyn's record as a coach. She just finished a season where she had a 13-19 win-loss record and now she wants to coach in the NBA. It's just like this Geraldine Fuhr who had a losing record. And the fact is even in the WNBA, the male coaches are the ones who seem to have won the championships. And look at Tony, he's a male coach and he got an Olympic Gold Medal.

Peck - If I could address first, Debbie, about me wanting to coach in the NBA. When that statement was made, there was no existence of the WNBA. When I first was interviewed by Pat Summitt to coach at the University of Tennessee, she asked me where I wanted to be in the next five to ten years. And I said, I'd like to be the first female on an NBA staff. Now was that to say that I, as a female, want to tell males what to do? Absolutely not.

At the time there was no professional league in the United States. And to me, to be able to coach in the NBA, you're turning around an 82 game season. What happens there is you get a great education about the game of basketball. And when you do that, it's like getting your Ph.D. at basketball. And that was before we now have the WNBA.

Ley - But Carolyn, when the WNBA began, it was one male head coach, Van Jansler. I think the number was 10 this past season, 10 male head coaches with the WNBA. Where are the women head coaches going to cut their teeth to coach pro basketball.

DiCicco - Bob, I think you are right, that right now there aren't as many women's coaches out there. And the Women's United Soccer Association, we probably only had six women apply for head coaching positions. But this is all going to change as the world of sports opens up to more women. In some cases, it is pretty intimidating right now. But I think this will change and for the better.

Schlussel - Bob, the problem is that boys in today's society have less and less opportunities to be boys and to learn how to be men. And to have bastions of maleness, and sports was one of those last bastions. But now we have this agenda of feminist groups and feminists coaches wanting to coach men. They are going to try to take that away, too.

And we have to get away from this desire to feminize and Oprafy every single segment of society. We have to let men be men. That's one of the great things that has come out of this tragedy that happened in this country a month ago. Men are starting to be men again, and we don't need to subjugate that with more female head coaches coaching men. There's no need for it.

DiCicco - Debbie, I agree with you. I think that we should allow the best coaches to coach. And if that is a male coach, absolutely that male coach should get the job. Whether it is a female team or a male team and vice versa. And I'm sure that a generation ago there weren't a lot of female journalists. Now you're an outstanding journalist, and that's an opportunity that was given you. And we just need to -- it's not about he or she, it's about we. We need to not feminize, we need to humanize. Larry Brown is very humanistic in his coaching approach, and that is why he was able to get to Allen Iverson.

Ley - I want to step aside for just a second. We'll be back with Carolyn Peck and Tony DiCicco ad Debbie Schlussel in just a second, looking at the image of the possibility of women coaching men. And whether indeed women like Cheryl Miller will have a spot some day in the National Basketball Association.

Ley - We continue with Carolyn Peck, Tony DiCicco and Debbie Schlussel on the topic of women coaching men. Carolyn you coached with Pat Summitt, as fiery, and as motivated, and as successful a coach as there is anywhere on this planet. She's had two conversations over the years -- brief ones -- about the possibility of coaching Tennessee Men's Program. Obviously, she didn't take the job. Will it take someone of her stature to break that barrier?

Peck - Well I think that it is not so much of the women making the choice to break that barrier, but a man really giving a women that opportunity. Because it is pretty much a male-dominated area in the field of sports. But I want to go back and address Debbie's issue of, if a women coaches men, it takes away the opportunity of men being men. I'm all for men being men. That's great. It's a matter of opportunity.

Now you look at men and women's basketball, and the number of jobs that are available. You have men that have all the opportunities on the men's side. You also have men who have all the opportunities on the women's side. So that really shortens or shrinks the full job opportunities for women. That the women can only coach on the women's side. When you look at opportunities across the board and you expand that among sports, would you ever want anyone to say to you, you can't be a journalist. Or you can only write about women's issues, you can't write about men's issues?

Schlussel - Well I think that is completely different; you are comparing apples to oranges. I think that there is another interest at play here, as I've said before. That goes beyond your career interests and some feminists' interests in dominating male jobs or traditional male job areas. The fact is, that men are more motivated when they play for men. They aren't motivated when they play for women. Women who have coached men in the past don't do well except in the movies in Hollywood.

DiCicco - Debbie have you played sports? Because...

Schlussel - Yes I have, competitively.

DiCicco - Because I don't think that's accurate. I think that great motivators motivate players and people. Great leaders lead people. And I don't want to turn this to a feminist thing.

Schlussel - Well then -- but it is a feminist thing.

DiCicco - Because I don't agree with that either. I don't think feminists should dictate that women get positions. I think...

Schlussel - Well that's what...

DiCicco - ... the quality of the person, the quality of that person in their ability to do the job better than anyone else should determine if they get the job.

Schlussel - Well, Tony, I mean, that sounds all great, and it sounds very nice and lofty. But the fact is, statistically -- not your opinion, but statistically -- the fact is that women coaching men do not do well. I mean, the fact is that they don't motivate their players to win. You can't cite, even in the few positions where women do have the head coaching job, of men's teams, that they've won anything significant. They haven't, because men are not motivated to win for these women coaches. Take Pat Summitt, if she did coach ...

DiCicco - I don't know where you've seen that sort of...

Schlussel - ... men's teams, they wouldn't win for her...

DiCicco - ... of research.

Schlussel - There have been several studies.

DiCicco - But we don't know that until Pat coaches.

Schlussel - Well there is such a small...

DiCicco - I just don't want to create generalities here, Debbie, because if you create generalities that's as inaccurate as you can get.

Schlussel - No, I'm quoting...

Ley - See Carolyn's point. Carolyn, come in.

Peck - Well I think there is a very, that's a very unfair statement. Because when you say that you have feminists who want to come in and dominate men, Debbie would you say that they make the men stop coaching women? Because men are trying to dominate women? That's...

Schlussel - No...

Peck - But you are saying it is OK for men to coach women. And then when you have a small pool to do your research from, you may not have had some of the best coaches put in the position to have the opportunity to coach men. I've worked with men...

Schlussel - Well you can make excuses for why they haven't performed...

Peck - I worked with a big man's camp where they had professional men basketball players and college basketball players. These men did not look at me as a women, but as someone who could help them to sharpen their game.

Schlussel - Well you may think that that's how they looked at you, but that's...

Peck - And I did it, they became better players. And they feel -- how do you know, how they looked at me...

Schlussel - Because I understand the human psychology, and apparently you don't.

Ley - We're going to end it right there. Thank you all very much for a lively discussion. Thank you to Carolyn Peck, best of luck. And Tony DiCicco, best of luck in the Pro Soccer League, and Debbie Schlussel as well. Thank you all. We'll be back in just a moment.

Ley - Reminder our program re-airs over on ESPN2 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, and tonight at 8:30 Eastern after Primetime, Oakland and the Colts. I'll be joining Robin in about 30 minutes for "SportsCenter," looking at Michael's second game back from the new top 25. But now, John Saunders in for Dick Schaap, on "The Sports Reporters."

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ESPN's Bob Ley tackles the topic of women coaching men.

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