Duke is in talks with Boston Celtics assistant coach and former WNBA All-Star Kara Lawson to take over as coach of its women’s basketball program, a source told ESPN on Friday.
The 39-year-old Lawson has become the leading candidate to replace Joanne P. McCallie, who announced last week she wouldn’t return for a 14th season as she entered the final year of her contract.
When Lawson’s name came up during Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ call with reporters on Friday, he said, “I’ve been asked not to comment on that. I mean, everybody knows what I think of Kara. She’s unbelievable. When I can comment on it, I will.”
The Raleigh News & Observer first reported that Duke had zeroed in on Lawson to be its next coach.
Lawson would be the first Black head coach in program history. The former University of Tennessee star, who played under Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, is on the board of trustees at her alma mater.
Lawson, however, recently criticized the lack of diversity in Tennessee’s coaching ranks during a June board meeting.
“It’s not just striking,” Lawson said of the lack of diversity at Tennessee, “there isn’t any.”
Lawson played in the WNBA from 2003 through 2015 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.
McCallie led the Blue Devils to a 330-107 record in her 13 seasons and was a three-time league coach of the year. Her teams won 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 consecutive trips to the Elite Eight in 2010-13.
But that job grew more challenging with the arrival of national powers Notre Dame (2013) and Louisville (2014) to the ACC. Duke has failed to finish in the top three of the league regular-season race in four of the past seven seasons and hasn’t won a league title in that span.
McCallie had taken over from Gail Goestenkors, who put together seven straight 30-win seasons before leaving for Texas in 2007.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.