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Duke hires Celtics’ Kara Lawson to lead women’s basketball team

Boston Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson on the court during warmups before a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson on the court during warmups before a game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston on Feb. 1. Duke has hired Lawson to lead its women’s basketball program.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

Duke has turned to Boston Celtics assistant coach and former WNBA All-Star Kara Lawson to lead its women’s basketball program.

The school announced the hiring in a social media post Saturday, a little more than a week after Joanne P. McCallie announced she wouldn’t return for a 14th season as she entered the final year of her contract. It is the first college head-coaching job for the 39-year-old Lawson, who played under Pat Summitt at Tennessee before a long WNBA career as well as work in broadcasting.

Lawson played in the WNBA from 2003-15 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.

Duke is the second Atlantic Coast Conference program this offseason to hire a woman working as an NBA assistant to be its head coach. Notre Dame hired Memphis Grizzlies assistant Niele Ivey — a former Fighting Irish player and assistant — to replace Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw in April.

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Teams have truckloads of equipment arriving at the NBA headquarters in Orlando, including photos and other items to make it feel like their home facilities.

Lawson inherits a Duke program that regularly goes to the NCAA Tournament, yet hasn’t won a league title since the ACC added national powers Notre Dame (2013) and Louisville (2014) to what was already a top-flight conference.

McCallie led Duke to at least a share of the regular-season title four times and three ACC Tournament titles as well as making 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, including four straight trips to the Elite Eight from 2010-13.

But the Blue Devils have failed to finish in the top three of the league regular-season race in four of the last seven years since the last wave of league expansion.

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It’ll be up to Lawson to shake things up and give the Duke program a jolt.


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