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Mailbag Answers Part 2: Why didn’t the Wizards consider a woman as their President of Basketball Operations?

In the second part of our mailbag, we answered a question on why the Wizards didn’t consider a woman to run their front office.

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Swin Cash was tapped to be the Pelicans’ President of Basketball Operations. Why was someone like her NOT considered to run the Wizards?
Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for TopSpin

Last Sunday, I asked you to comment or email me questions on the Wizards and Mystics for a mailbag. This is the second part. Ultimately, Lyndie and Akbar took this question from the questions we had and ran with it. It’s a great read!

The question centered around the NBA’s recent trend of hiring women as coaches and front office personnel. The Wizards have Kristi Toliver as an assistant coach, so why couldn’t they hire someone like ... Swin Cash to run their front office?

Here are their answers below. And if you didn’t see your question yet, it’s probably coming up in another part!

— Albert

Pete (email): The Wizards have publicly considered several candidates for their new GM position, but none of them have been female. Why not? Thanks!

Akbar: This is a good question. In fact, you could ask this of every team that is searching for new members of their front office. New Orleans Pelicans President of Basketball Operations David Griffin hired former WNBA star Swin Cash as a Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development. Hopefully, her addition widens the pool for front office talent in the future.

The Wizards would be well-served taking advantage of this. Now, all we know about the Wizards’ GM search is candidates that have been reported in the public. Ted’s interview with Chris Miller indicated that he’s talked to over 50 people. Perhaps some of those people are women, although I obviously would not be surprised if they weren’t.

Regardless, the Wizards should hire the best person for the job and should not be excluding any kind of person to give a chance to show that to them. If they haven’t considered anyone female, it’s likely because women usually just aren’t empowered to take on that kind of role and there aren’t many options they’ve thought to consider, although hopefully that will change given current trends in the league.

Lyndie: I have no insider knowledge on the Wizards GM search, so I can’t specifically answer questions about why any candidate was or was not considered. But I can talk more generally about the pool of candidates general managers are typically drawn from.

Of the NBA’s 29 current general managers, all are men. And virtually all of them were assistant general managers before they were hired for the top job. General managers that don’t start out as assistants are in other powerful and prestigious NBA positions (Warriors President of Basketball Operations Bob Myers and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka were agents, for example, and Pat Riley was a head coach before being a front office man himself).

So when an NBA team is looking for a new general manager, we pretty much know the theoretical pool they are planning to draw from. It makes sense: GMing is a complicated job, and so assistant GM is a logical prerequisite.

Akbar is right that women are not considered enough for those “pipeline” roles. The first female assistant general manager was hired less than one year ago when the Indiana Pacers hired Kelly Krauskopf. Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird joined the Denver Nuggets to be a Basketball Operations Associate on ... Tim Connelly’s staff.

And as he mentioned, Swin Cash joined the Pelicans just last week. There are a handful of other women working in NBA basketball operations, but not many.

With a recent wave of female coaching and front office hires, it seems that some of the stigma against women in visible leadership roles in the NBA is diminishing. Teams are realizing that there is a wealth basketball expertise in former WNBA players and executives that they were not utilizing.

So the standard I’d like us all to hold the Wizards to in the near term is this: How many women will begin to populate the ranks of their basketball operations staff? How many women will go to their analytics team? Will more women go to the coaching staff? (And a shoutout to Kristi Toliver!) And how many women will be scouts and video coordinators?

The next generation of NBA general managers will come from the people in those areas. There is no reason not to draw from the full pool of talent available for those roles, regardless of their gender.