The Cleveland Cavaliers hired University of California women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb as an assistant coach Wednesday, making the rebuilding team the seventh in the NBA to employ a female coach and the first to hire a female coach directly from the college ranks.
In eight years as head coach at Cal and three before that at UC Santa Barbara, Gottlieb, 41, posted a 235-128 record. She has taken teams to eight NCAA tournaments and made one Final Four appearance in 2013, the same year she was named Pac-12 coach of the year.
Gottlieb is the fourth hire of Cleveland Coach John Beilein, who was hired away from the University of Michigan in May.
“While this move provided a unique and special chance to move directly from Cal Berkeley and women’s college basketball to the NBA, it was really about being part of building and growing something special and adding value to a team and organization that is focused on doing things in a way that I believe strongly in,” Gottlieb said in a statement released by the Cavaliers.
“The vision for the Cavs’ future is compelling and I look forward to helping make it a reality. At the same time, on a personal level, I am honored to hopefully impact young girls and women to be empowered to pursue their own visions and to be inspired to turn them into reality as well.”
In a statement, Beilein lauded Gottlieb’s experience, and said she embraced “a culture of winning basketball habits.”
“Her success at Cal Berkeley speaks for itself and her insight in our meetings, practices and games will hold tremendous value,” he said. “After sitting with her, it was easy to see how she will connect quickly with our staff and our players, and we all benefit because of that connection.”
Several NBA teams in recent years have added women to their coaching staffs, but have often looked to the WNBA ranks for candidates. Becky Hammon in 2014 became the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff when she joined the San Antonio Spurs. She had previously played for the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars.
Gottlieb has regularly visited Golden State Warriors practices in recent years, and Golden State Coach Steve Kerr told reporters Wednesday that he was “thrilled for Lindsay.”
“I’m a transplanted Cal fan since I’ve had two kids there,” Kerr said. “I’m disappointed for Cal that they’re losing such a dynamic person and a great coach, but I’m thrilled for Lindsay. What a great opportunity and a great hire by the Cavaliers. She’s a wonderful person and a hell of a coach.”
The New Orleans Pelicans earlier this week named Swin Cash, a four-time WNBA all-star, the team’s vice president of basketball operations and team development, and Kerr said the “incredible basketball” being played in the WNBA and women’s game “is probably helping women to gain positions in the men’s game. It’s great to see and I’m really happy for Swin and for Lindsay, of course, and hopefully there’ll be many more."
ESPN reported that Gottlieb “is expected to have a level of staff prominence comparable to only two female coaching peers in the NBA”: Hammon and former Sacramento Kings assistant Nancy Lieberman.
“Coach Gottlieb brings a depth of basketball knowledge, leadership, perspective and approach to her craft that will fit very well with our team and staff alike,” Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman said. “We’re fortunate that she was willing to leave her role as Head Coach at such a solid and successful program at Cal.”