INNOVATION has always been something that fits well with CJ Jackson in his 30 years’ involvement in basketball in Western Australia, and now what he wants to see happen is steps taken for a female coach to take over a men’s SBL team in the future.
Jackson has just returned in 2020 to the Perth Redbacks to coach the men’s team originally for the SBL season and now in the West Coast Classic, but he knows the time has more than arrived for females to be entrusted with more coaching roles in the game.
It’s been a remarkable basketball journey for Jackson since he left Moreno Valley in California on a whim back in 1990 having never heard of Perth, but joining the Redbacks in the SBL and going on to team with the likes of Andrew Vlahov and Luc Longley to win that year’s championship.
He went on to have a remarkable 260-game career in the league as an innovative, tall and creative point guard who flirted with averaging a triple-double right throughout his playing days where he was also a player-coach.
His coaching legacy since has seen him coach both in the men’s and women’s competition, he also had a stint running the SBL and he has done everything in between, so when he talks he should be listened to and he now wants more females trusted with greater coaching roles.
It’s not just a West Australian thing. While there are some rare examples like Becky Hammon at the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, Tracy York who was at the Adelaide 36ers and in the SBL Karina Tudor, Fleur McIntyre and Emily Rose, it remains a rarity.
Jackson doesn’t want that to be the case and he wants it to change quickly.
He wants to see more female coaches as assistant coaches in the men’s competition. He wants a female coach, should she earn the role, be given the opportunity to be a head coach and indeed, he wants more female coaches entrusted to coach teams in the women’s competition.
It’s something that Jackson is passionate about and he wants to draw attention to it, but also do something about it himself and that’s why he has Emily Rose as his assistant coach at the Perth Redbacks.
He would love nothing more than at some point in the future hand over the reins at the Redbacks as head coach to her and if that would end up being his lasting legacy of helping things change for the better in terms of equality, he’d love nothing more to be remembered for.
What really brought it to Jackson’s mind was when the Redbacks played the Cougars and there was Rose and McIntyre on opposing benches. But he now wants that to become the norm and not something special.
“I think I try to do things a little bit different and just think outside the box. Having Em and Fleur going against each other last week was the first time I think in the history of this competition that two female coaches in the men’s comp were opposite each other,” Jackson said.
“I think that the kids and players need to understand that the female players that play at a high-intensity level actually like the game like a man, or even better than a man.
“If they know how to play as well as any of the men, then there is no reason they can’t direct like a man and it’s time for us to realise that.
“Fleur and Emily, they have coached men’s teams and have been assistant coaches on state teams, and Em led the under-16s young men’s team to the Grand Final. They lost in the Grand Final but she made them strong and she’s a hard, and smart coach and so is Fleur.
“I think we need more female coaches and I’m a Popovich fans, and we need a lot more Becky Hammon’s in basketball. All the teams need to look at who the next female coach is and look at who can lead because you aren’t going to be able to stay leading as long as you think.
“So it’s on you not just to develop the players, but the coaches, female coaches and young coaches so they understand what to do. That’s what I am trying to do.”
Jackson takes it as his responsibility seriously to help develop female coaches to earn more opportunities than they are currently receiving, and he sees no reason at all why there can’t be women’s coaching in the men’s league.
Whether it’s one of the current assists like Rose or McIntyre or indeed recent coaches in the women’s league like Deanna Black, Tanya Fisher or Megan Thompson, Jackson sees no reason why they shouldn’t be backed in and given a go.
“There’s no reason a woman couldn’t be a head coach at all in the men’s competition. The hurdle might be how the players actually embrace the coach and if they don’t respect and embrace her, that will make her job harder,” Jackson said.
“But if she has the skills, if she has the experience, the know-how and the feel for the game, there’s no reason a female can’t coach in this league.
“I would think Becky Hammon could coach in this league just fine and if she is coaching at the Spurs, I’m sure she could coach any NBL team, any SBL team or any national league team anywhere in the world.
“That’s why I think it’s good for us to look at embracing it and uplifting some of these female coaching who are capable of more than the chance they are getting at the moment.”
Jackson would like to see things change in the women’s game too. Right now with Tanya Fisher and Megan Thompson no longer coaching in 2020, Deanna Black remains the only female coach in charge of a women’s team.
Jackson doesn’t like that at all and in time, would like to see the majority of those women’s teams coached by a female. In the long-term, he sees no reason to not have as many female head coaches across men’s and women’s competitions as there are men.
“What’s happening in the women’s competition should change too and there should be a lot more women leading and coaching the teams there,” Jackson said.
“But what I feel is holding that back as well is not so much clubs not giving them a chance, but our pool of female coaches is not really that strong right now. We need more females standing up to want to become coaches and that might be because they think it’s a boys club, I’m not sure.
“But we should not be making them feel that way, they should feel as though they can coach any team as much as any man can, and we need to give them those chances.
“They might still have male assistant coaches or what not to help them with the message, but I still feel that whether it’s Doccy, Fleur, Emily or any other quality female coach should be allowed in the near future, and I don’t know what that means, to coach a men’s team.”
This isn’t just a crusade from Jackson either. Two-time championship winning coach Ben Ettridge who led the Joondalup Wolves to the past five straight SBL Grand Finals and having won gold with the Australian Rollers, sees no reason why female coaches shouldn’t be backed in either.
The current Kalamunda Eastern Suns assistant coach feels it might just take one club to be brave enough to make the first appointment to break down those barriers.
“Change can be a scary thing and somebody always has to be first. Hopefully someone does listen and that we see it happen in the not too distant future,” Ettridge said on this week’s SBL Shootaround.
“I think more than anything it’s just one of those breakdowns that we’ve had and essentially it has been left to men to coach men, and then a lot of guys have coached in the women’s league.
“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet, but I’m watching a WNBA game right now and I’m picking the brains out of that and writing down plays and different things they are using so the game itself is not that dissimilar.
“A lot of what they do in the WNBA and EuroLeague women’s basketball really fits our style of play, and there are some amazing female coaches out there. I was lucky enough to have Jan Stirling as a mentor of mine for a long time, and the way she managed athletes and a game was phenomenal.
“I can’t see any reason why a woman can’t coach in our league and clubs should be looking to have female coaches on their depth chart, and those pathways shouldn’t be male dominated. They should be able to accessed by everyone to give anyone a chance to be involved in it.”