The leadership of the Phoenix Mercury could have simply created T-shirts featuring a middle finger on the front, and the impact would have been the same.
Having Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, two of the greatest players in the history of the game, and having won three WNBA titles and played for two more, the team is now being coached by a journeyman NBA assistant with no experience in the women’s game at any level.
However, Nate Tibbetts is a “Girl Dad,” and apparently, that’s enough justification.
Instead of addressing the social media backlash following the leak of Tibbetts’ hiring, the Mercury decided to confirm the news with a cringe-worthy post, just before Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.
If the new owner Mat Ishbia and Nick U’Ren truly hold such a dismissive view of their team and the women’s game in general, they should do everyone a favor and sell the team.
Treating women as equals and not patronizing or pitying them shouldn’t be so difficult. Yet, here we are again.
What’s especially disheartening is that Ishbia and U’Ren came to Phoenix with promising plans, including a state-of-the-art practice facility for the Mercury and adjacent headquarters for them and the Suns.
But this hiring decision is far from right.
While Tibbetts may turn out to be an excellent coach, his lack of knowledge about the women’s game is an insult to everyone who believes that it matters.
Basketball may be basketball, but there are different rules and challenges in the WNBA compared to the NBA. Tibbetts also lacks familiarity with the players and the unique aspects of the women’s game, such as pregnancies, childcare, and injuries.
If there were no qualified candidates available, the Mercury’s decision could be understood. However, there are plenty of qualified individuals, and anyone who cares about the game could easily provide a list to Ishbia and U’Ren.
Instead, they chose a man with no experience over a highly experienced woman, seemingly solely because Tibbetts is a man.
“We need more male advocates and more women leaders who do the hiring,” former Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s time we started believing in the potential of women.”
For decades, women’s sports have been overseen by men who thought they were doing a favor by allowing women to play. But now, people recognize that these are world-class athletes who deserve equal treatment. Smart owners like Mark Davis and Joe and Clara Wu Tsai have invested in their teams, including hiring the best coaches.
Becky Hammon, for instance, has led the Las Vegas Aces to back-to-back championships.
Men can coach in the WNBA, but it must be the right person for the job, not just someone who happens to be a “Girl Dad.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on social media @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In WNBA, Phoenix Mercury coaching hire by Mat Ishbia nonsensical
Rachel Adams is your WNBA insider, delivering comprehensive coverage of women’s basketball. With a commitment to highlighting the talent and achievements of WNBA players, she provides game analysis, player profiles, and inspiring stories from the league.