Kara Lawson to Lead Duke Women’s Basketball

Jul 13, 2020

DURHAM, N.C. – Former WNBA and Olympic Champion Kara Lawson has been named Duke University’s fifth head women’s basketball coach, announced on Saturday by Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White.

CSA is grateful to have assisted VP/AD Kevin White, and Senior Deputy AD Nina King on this critical search. 

“I am delighted to welcome Kara Lawson to Duke as our next women’s basketball coach,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “Kara has proven herself as a skilled coach and a committed mentor, whose passion for education is demonstrated by her service on her alma mater’s board of trustees.  I am thrilled that she will be bringing these talents to Duke, and I know that she will support the continued success of our women’s basketball student-athletes both on the court and off.”

Lawson, a 2003 Tennessee graduate, brings her decorated basketball career, both on and off the court, to the Blue Devils after spending last season as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. She had helped Boston to a 43-21 record and into third place in the Eastern Conference prior to the stoppage of the 2019-20 NBA season due to COVID-19. Lawson was the Celtics first female coach in the franchise’s 73-year history.

“A highly-seasoned champion at multiple levels within the basketball landscape, Kara Lawson is the ideal fit for Duke University,” commented White. “Throughout the process, it became abundantly clear that her authenticity, passion, contemporary vision and unwavering commitment to the student-athlete experience align seamlessly with the values of the institution. With her high degree of emotional intelligence, Kara’s astute ability to connect with future, current and former student-athletes, as well as the passionate and dedicated supporters of Duke women’s basketball, will have an immediate and profound impact on the entire program.”

“Well, it is a dream come true for me,” said Lawson.  “I have wanted to be a coach since I was a kid. To have an opportunity to lead a group of young women at a prestigious university like Duke – I have run out of words; it is unbelievable and very exciting.  I am thankful for the path that led me here and thankful for the belief of President Price, Kevin White, Kina King, Coach Krzyzewski, Coach Cutcliffe and everyone surrounding the program. Everybody I spoke with and had a chance to interact with, I immediately felt a great connection.  It wasn’t a decision based on emotion, but there was a lot of emotion involved in it because of how excited I am and how ready I am to get started and to work with the players.”

In 13 WNBA seasons, Lawson averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 377 career games with the Sacramento Monarchs, Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics from 2003 to 2015. In addition to her WNBA career, which included a championship with the Monarchs in 2005 and an All-Star appearance in 2007, Lawson was a member of the Team USA roster that captured the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
 
A four-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-America choice at Tennessee, Lawson played for the late Pat Summitt and led the Lady Vols to three NCAA Final Four appearances during her collegiate career. Lawson appeared in 143 games, making 137 starts, and helped Tennessee to a 126-17 overall and 54-2 mark in the SEC over her four seasons. Lawson guided the Lady Vols to four straight SEC regular season and tournament crowns, as well as 2000, 2002 and 2003 NCAA Final Four appearances.

Lawson, who is married to Damien Barling, graduated from Tennessee in 2003 with a degree in finance.  

The fifth Duke women’s basketball coach in program history, Lawson joins Emma Jean Howard (1976-77), DebbieLeonard  (1978-92), Gail Goestenkors (1993-2007) and Joanne P. McCallie (2008-20) that have led the Blue Devils.

For the full release from Duke Athletics, click HERE

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