Duke has turned to Boston Celtics assistant coach and former WNBA All-Star Kara Lawson to lead its women’s basketball program.
The school announced the hiring in a social media post Saturday, a little more than a week after Joanne P. McCallie announced she wouldn’t return for a 14th season as she entered the final year of her contract. It is the first college head coaching job for the 39-year-old Lawson, who played under Pat Summitt at Tennessee before a long WNBA career as well as work in broadcasting.
Lawson played in the WNBA from 2003-15 and won the 2005 championship with Sacramento. She also was part of the U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal in Beijing in 2008. She had also worked as a TV commentator for NBA and college basketball games before the Celtics hired her in June 2019.
Duke is the second Atlantic Coast Conference program this offseason to hire a woman working as an NBA assistant to be its head coach. Notre Dame hired Memphis Grizzlies assistant Niele Ivey — a former Fighting Irish player and assistant — to replace Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw in April.
Lawson inherits a Duke program that regularly goes to the NCAA Tournament, yet hasn’t won a league title since the ACC added national powers Notre Dame (2013) and Louisville (2014) to what was already a top-flight conference.
McCallie led Duke to at least a share of the regular-season title four times and three ACC Tournament titles while also making 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, including four straight trips to the Elite Eight from 2010-13.
But the Blue Devils have failed to finish in the top three of the league regular-season race in four of the past seven years since the last wave of league expansion.
It’ll be up to Lawson to shake things up and give the Duke program a jolt.