The number of female coaches at women’s basketball programs has been decreasing in recent years, just as has been the case for women’s sports at large over the past several decades. While 63 percent of women’s basketball teams had female coaches in 2007-08, that figure has now fallen to 56 percent less than a decade later.
There’s been plenty of hypothesizing on the reasons behind this decline, with various parties suggesting everything from an increase in discriminatory hiring practices to the pressure of traditional social demands as women’s sports have become more prominent and begun to draw more attention. But UConn head coach Geno Auriemma is here to assure us that, really, there’s nothing too complicated going on here. “It’s quite simple,” as he told reporters today. There’s no discrimination happening, he promised. Women just don’t want these jobs.
“There’s a reason why there’s not as many opportunities for women. Not as many women want to coach,” Auriemma said, in a statement that’s as insulting as it is grossly intellectually lazy. There is perhaps no older trick in the book to explain away discrimination than to remove all responsibility for change from those who have power and instead place the full onus of inclusion on those attempting to fight the structure. For Auriemma to claim that the only possible explanation is that women simply don’t want these jobs is for him to deliberately ignore the very, very, very obvious truth that the potential female coaches are not the people with agency in this situation. Those would be the athletic directors with hiring power, and they’re generally male.
This isn’t to say, of course, that the decrease in female coaches is definitively caused by overt discriminatory hiring. It’s more complex than that, and there are layers of cause-and-effect at work here from different directions. It’s only to say that banishing the idea of any bias at all from the conversation by placing blame on the women themselves does nothing to advance the dialogue and only shuts female coaches in a corner. That one of the most powerful figures in women’s basketball—arguably, the single most powerful—would dismiss the personal experience of so many of his colleagues by pressing this idea is disgusting, but it’s not particularly surprising.
Auriemma closed his remarks by saying that more women want a “normal life” rather than that of a head coach; he, perhaps, could try the normal life of not being a deluded asshole.
Update (9:20 p.m. ET): Auriemma’s daughter, Ally, has shared some thoughts on Twitter.
She further offered: “My dad has always been an empowering force in my life and in the lives of countless women. To suggest that one poorly formed comment about women in the game is indicative of his entire opinion of women or is indicative of him being dismissive of women as a gender is unfortunate. That being said, as a cisgendered male, obviously his points of view are limited. He has an entirely female staff, is a champion of female coaches, and was trying to make a point about the myriad more opportunities available to women now as opposed to when he started out. Phrased badly.”