The Phoenix Mercury executives could have just made T-shirts with a middle finger on the front. The effect would have been the same.
A team that has Diana Taurasi And Brittney Griner, two of the greatest players in the history of the game, who won three WNBA titles and played in two others, is now coached by a journeyman NBA assistant with no experience in women’s soccer. Not as a WNBA assistant, not at the college level, not even for fun at the local college.
But Nate Tibbetts is a “daddy’s girl” everyone, so everything is fine!
Not content with the criticism they received on social media following the Tibbetts hiring leak, the Mercury decided to hit the dumpster hard and confirm the news with a worthy post. interest. Less than an hour before the start of Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, no less. If new Mercury owners Mat Ishbia and Nick U’Ren really have such a dim view of their team and women’s football in general, they should do everyone a favor and put the team up for sale. NOW.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to treat women as equals to men rather than as objects to be protected or, by default, pitied. Yet here we are. Again.
What’s particularly disheartening about Ishbia and U’Ren’s moves, aside from (waves hand in the air) everything, is that they arrived in Phoenix with such promise. Earlier this month, Ishbia said it would invest more than $100 million in state-of-the-art training facility for the Mercury and adjoining headquarters for them and the Suns.
“We’re going to do it right and we’re going to do it quickly,” Ishbia said.
However, this is also far from true.
It’s possible that Tibbetts will become a great coach. He’s apparently well-regarded in the NBA, but not well-regarded enough to get a head coaching job. But he doesn’t know women’s football, and it’s an insult to everyone to suggest that doesn’t matter.
Basketball is basketball, but there are different rules between the WNBA and the NBA. Tibbetts also has no knowledge of the staff, his team or anyone else. As a coach, he has no experience of the different challenges that women’s football will present. Challenges like pregnancies. Childcare. Injuries that are more likely to occur in female athletes than in males.
If there were no other qualified people, the movement of Mercury could be understood. Accepted even. But there are plenty that are, and anyone interested in the game could have easily given Ishbia and U’Ren a list.
Instead, they looked around and decided that a man with no experience was better than a woman with years of experience, for no other reason, apparently, than Tibbetts being a man.
“We need more male advocates and more female leaders recruiting,” one Notre Dame alum said. Coach Muffet McGraw said on X. “Women are judged by their success, men by their potential. It’s time we start believing in the potential of women.”
For decades, women’s sports were run by men who thought they were doing girls a big favor by giving them a place to play. First-class facilities, professional support staff and slick marketing campaigns: what would women need with that? A pat on the head will be enough!
Fortunately, most people have realized that these are world-class athletes, just as professional as LeBron James and Stephen Curry. And the smarter owners realized that there was a ton of money to be made, if only you treated your women’s team the same way you would treat your men’s team.
It’s no coincidence that the teams competing in the WNBA Finals were the Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty. Aces owner Mark Davis and Liberty owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai poured money into their teams, building dazzling practice facilities and, you guessed it! Hire the best coaches.
All Becky Hammon did in her first two years in Las Vegas was bring Davis consecutive championships.
But it has to be the right person. Not a guy whose main qualification seems to be being a “Girl Dad”.
Follow USA TODAY sports columnist Nancy Armor on social media @nrarmour.