Lindsey Harding anxious for Kings' G League coaching job

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — After a sparkling career as one of the best female basketball players in the world then spending time working her way up the ranks as an assistant in the NBA, Lindsey Harding is ready for the challenge of coaching her own team.

Harding was introduced Monday as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings’ G League affiliate in Stockton in what is another giant step for the 39-year-old former WNBA and international star.

“I feel so honored to have this opportunity,” Harding said. “I came here four years ago as a player development coach, not knowing where I was going to go in the future. Each year I grew and got better and better. I had my eyes on this possible opportunity.”

Harding spent last year as an assistant with the Kings as a member of coach Mike Brown’s staff. Prior to that, she was also a coaching assistant with Brown’s predecessor, Luke Walton. She also spent time as a scout and player developmental coach with the Philadelphia 76ers before joining the Kings.

Brown, whose team ended the longest playoff drought in NBA history last season, was among those in attendance at Harding’s press conference at Golden 1 Center. He smiled as she recalled her journey from player to coach.

“We would like to think we’re an extension of the Sacramento Kings,” Harding said. “I would like a seamless transition from players that are going to be going back and forth. (Brown) talks a lot about playing together as a team, playing physical and playing fast. That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Might have my own little style and flair to it but it’s going to be pretty similar to that.”

Harding has a storied resume both as a player and coach.

She was the Naismith College Player of the Year at Duke in 2007 and had her No. 10 jersey retired by the university. That same year Harding was the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury and made the league’s all-rookie team. She spent nine seasons playing for six teams in the WNBA before retiring in 2016, then spent time playing internationally with Turkey, Lithuania and Russia.

In 2021, Harding served as head coach for the South Sudan women’s senior national team where she guided her squad to its first ever appearance in the FIBA AfroBasket qualifier. She currently holds the same position for the Mexican Women’s Senior National Team.

Harding is fully aware that as one of the few female coaches in men’s basketball, let alone an African-American woman, her journey carries a lot of weight.

“This organization entrusted me with this, this responsibility and belief they had in me,” Harding said. “I have young girls now in college and high school saying, ‘I want to coach in the NBA.’ When I was that age I didn’t even know that this was an opportunity. It’s great that I feel I’m able to follow my dreams to get this opportunity and open up doors hopefully for the future.”

Someone suggested that Harding’s hiring makes her somewhat of a trail blazer, a notion that Harding herself embraced.

“When you think about it, I think I am,” Harding said. “When you take the time and you really sit and think about it, how many women look like me that do this? I didn’t have this when I was a kid. I didn’t have someone that looked like me that was doing this. A lot of these young men, they’re so lucky that they’re able to see somebody and see the path to get there. I don’t really know the path to get to the highest level. I’m just kind of making it as I go. “

With the Stockton Kings, Harding works closely with Anjali Ranadivé, the daughter of Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé who is the G-League team’s general manager. The Kings are the only G League team to have women in both positions, adding more significance to it all.

“We understand the weight of this, we both do,” Harding said. “We can’t just be good, we have to be great. We both understand that.”

Harding was a finalist for the Stockton job in 2021 before the Kings hired Bobby Jackson. Jackson recently joined the 76ers coaching staff, which created the opening for Harding. While she gleefully talked about her new position, Harding didn’t rule out taking her coaching career further, possibly to the NBA.

“Would I love to keep going and be a head coach at another level? Maybe. But right now this is my focus, this is my goal, this is where my mind is and this is what I’m going to put all my effort and energy on,” Harding said. “After this year, how everything goes, ask me that question again and we’ll see where it goes from there.”