Duke women’s basketball names Kara Lawson, Celtics assistant and former WNBA star, as next coach

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Boston Celtics assistant and former WNBA All-Star Kara Lawson will be the next women’s basketball coach at Duke, the university announced on Saturday. Lawson, 39, will replace Joanne McCallie, who resigned earlier this month after 13 years on the job.

Lawson spent this past season on the Celtics’ staff in her first foray into coaching after playing in the WNBA from 2003 to 2015. She won a WNBA championship with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005 and captured a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 after a standout career at Tennessee under legendary former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt from 1999 to 2003.

After retiring as a player, Lawson worked in broadcasting while rumors swirled about her candidacy for various coaching jobs. She told reporters after her hiring in Boston last year that she had talked to “a number of teams” in recent years about coaching opportunities. 

Given her close association with the Tennessee women’s program, Lawson’s name surfaced in connection with the Lady Vols’ opening last year after the program parted with Holly Warlick. Tennessee ultimately hired a different former point guard in Kellie Harper, who brought experience as a head coach from three schools into the job. Lawson accepted the job with the Celtics two and a half months later.

At Duke, she will inherit a program with a proud history. The Blue Devils have made four Final Four appearances — all since 1999 — and have twice appeared in the national title game. McCallie led the program to the NCAA Tournament in 10 of her first 11 years on the job. But the team struggled to a 33-27 record over the past two seasons before her resignation.

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