The Celtics officially announced additions to their coaching staff today with the arrivals of Joe Mazzulla, Brandon Bailey, and Kara Lawson. Mazzulla has spent the last two years at Fairmont State University, leading them to a 43-17 record and a tournament bid last season. He was in the Celtics organization three years ago as an assistant coach for the Red Claws. Brandon Bailey has ties to Maine, too. Bailey had been the head coach of the Celtics’ G-League affiliate for the last two years and started with the team as a video coordinator for six years.
However, the newest assistant coach with the most impressive resume is Kara Lawson. She’s spent the last two seasons as a TV analyst for the Washington Wizards and ESPN, but it’s her on-court experience that will provide the most guidance to a Celtics team with nine players still on their rookie contract. Lawson spent thirteen seasons in the WNBA on three different teams. She’s also a gold medalist from the 2008 Olympics and went to three Final Fours.
But she’s not resting on her laurels.
Lawson had spoken to a couple of teams in the past about the possibility of joining their coaching staff. She got a closer look at the inner workings of an NBA team in her time with Washington, but it took a text from Brad Stevens and subsequent conversations that convinced her that she and the Celtics were a fit.
“For me, this was a good fit. I wanted to go somewhere where I’d be challenged. I wanted to go somewhere where I’d be allowed to coach,” Lawson said. “I wanted to go to an organization that was going to be playing in big games to get a sense of that last frontier of coaching, being able to do it in pressure situations in the regular season and in the playoffs.”
It’s been well documented that the Celtics suffered from chemistry issues between vets and up-and-comers, stars and role players. In Boston’s front office and coaching staff, there are only a handful of former professional players and that’s a niche that Lawson hopes to fill.
“When you’re a young player, you’re trying to learn the NBA, trying to grow into certain roles. I saw that as a chance to make a difference on this staff. Everyone on this staff is elite. We all bring different perspectives. So, my perspective I try to bring is that I’ve been there. I’ve won a championship.”
“I’ve played almost every role that you can possibly play on a team. I’ve been a rookie when I didn’t play a lot. I’ve been a point guard where I’ve started every game and we made it to the conference finals. I’ve been a sixth man more years than I’ve wanted to be. So, I can relate when you’re put into that sixth position and it sucks for you to come in everyday and the starters are in green and you’re in white and it’s the worst, but you gotta deal with it and you gotta be a pro about it.”
Lawson joins a growing group of women that have made inroads into the NBA including the Spurs’ Becky Hammon, the Wizards’ Kristi Toliver, and the 76ers’ Lindsey Harding as former WNBA players on NBA benches. As groundbreaking as that sounds, Lawson looks at her new job as a competitor, not as pioneer.
“My mindset is that being the first to do something is great; I want to be the best. I don’t want to be the best of my gender. I want to be the best in the league,” Lawson said. “Obviously, that’s easier said when you’re on your fifth day. I got a lot to learn and I got a steep mountain to climb, but I don’t like qualifiers when it comes to judging things, right? So, every time someone talks about me, I don’t want it to be about my gender.”