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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 1:00 am

NBA seeks even more diversity

Already lauded for efforts, Silver sees room to grow

TERESA M. WALKER | Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sees one simple way for both the NBA and women to mark real progress in the league.

Hire more women in positions of power.

“I think there just has to be more, more of the same,” said Popovich, who during the offseason promoted assistant coach Becky Hammon, moving her one step closer to a head coaching seat. “There are more Beckys out there, they just have to be noticed and given the opportunity by people who are wise enough and courageous enough to do it and not just sit in the old paradigm.”

And not just on the bench, but on the business side of the NBA as well.

The NBA routinely gets high marks for its diversity efforts and is widely viewed as a leader on social issues. Still, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver believes the league needs to be better, and he made his feelings known in a memo to teams in the wake of the Dallas Mavericks' embarrassing scandal.

Several NBA teams tout statistics about women in their workforce, but beyond a handful – including Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson – the next step for the league seems to be more women in positions of power such as CEOs and COOs.

Memphis guard Mike Conley said it's important for basketball, business and society itself to have women in positions of authority.

“We welcome it, and we do want to see more of that,” Conley said, “and I think that will help bridge that gray area and all the things that have been happening with the Mavs and situations like that and hopefully it will never occur” again.

The NBA earned an A+ for racial hiring practices but a B for its gender hiring practices this summer from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. That puts the NBA “significantly above” other professional sports, even as the number of women hired at the team level dropped for a third straight year with the percentage of women in team vice presidents and professional staff dipping as well, according to the report's author, Richard Lapchick.

When the NBA began investigating a report of sexual harassment and improper workplace conduct involving the former team president, the Mavericks did not have one woman at the executive level. Owner Mark Cuban hired former AT&T senior executive Cynthia Marshall as CEO and president in February, promoted four women to executive roles and now has eight women among 18 leadership roles.

 Irina Pavlova represented the Nets on the Board of Governors before leaving last year and was replaced by a woman as president of the company that runs the Nets, Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum. The Toronto Raptors have Teresa Resch as vice president of basketball operations and player development, and Dr. Lisa Callahan is chief medical officer for both the Knicks and the WNBA's Liberty.

The Miami Heat recently hired Ruth Riley Hunter as its newest television and radio analyst, a move in motion before Silver talked about wanting more women in the NBA.