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Gottlieb Leaves Cal for Role as Cavs' Assistant

June 12, 2019

In a stunning move that could portend changes in the role of women in men’s professional basketball, Cal women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb resigned on Wednesday to accept a position on the coaching staff of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers.

Although the NBA has several women assistant coaches and personnel executives, Gottlieb, 41, is the first female head coach from a Power-5 conference to become an NBA assistant. She is reportedly signing a four-year contract.

She will be working with new Cleveland head coach John Beilein and associate head coach JB Bickerstaff

“Lindsay Gottlieb will be a great addition to Coach Beilein’s and Coach Bickerstaff’s group,” Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said in a news release. “She has an extensive track record of success and growth with her teams and players and has also been a strong culture-driver as a core part of that.

“The more we researched and got to know Lindsay, the more we came to understand that she would be an impactful part of where we want to go as a team. Coach Gottlieb brings a depth of basketball knowledge, leadership, perspective and approach to her craft that will fit very well with our team and staff alike. We’re fortunate that she was willing to leave her role as head coach at such a solid and successful program at Cal.”

With Gottlieb’s departure, Cal assistant coach Kai Felton will serve as the program’s interim head coach. Athletic director Jim Knowlton and the university will begin a nationwide search immediately.

Gottlieb, who said she loves Cal and wasn’t looking to leap to the NBA or anywhere, first met Altman through a friend of hers in the NBA. The two talked on the phone and then met last month at the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Chicago.

“I thought it would be more of a high-level, where’s the NBA going with women …,” Gottlieb said Wednesday. “He looked at me and he said, `We just hired coach  Beilein. We want to build an organization with the Cavaliers that’s about culture and bettering

Gottlieb, who was the head coach at Cal for eight seasons with seven NCAA Tournament appearances, had a 179-89 record and took the Bears to their only Final Four appearance in 2013.

“While this move provided a unique and special chance to move directly from Cal Berkeley and women’s college basketball to the NBA, it was really about being part of building and growing something special and adding value to a team and organization that is focused on doing things in a way that I believe strongly in,” Gottlieb said. “The vision for the Cavs’ future is compelling and I look forward to helping make it a reality.

“At the same time, on a personal level, I am honored to hopefully impact young girls and women to be empowered to pursue their own visions and to be inspired to turn them into reality as well.”

Gottlieb has long had an affinity for the NBA and was a regular at Warriors games.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr praised the hire. “Thrilled for Lindsay,” Kerr said. “She's visited our practices many times. I'm a transplanted Cal fan since I've had two kids there. I'm disappointed for Cal that they're losing such a dynamic person and a great coach, but I'm thrilled for Lindsay.

“What a great opportunity and a great hire by the Cavaliers. She's a wonderful person and a hell of a coach.”

Gottlieb is leaving with mixed feelings. "I also want to thank Cal for what has been an amazing job, and really my home and family, for the better part of 15 years," Gottlieb said. "It is very difficult to say goodbye. The university leadership, the athletic department, my fellow coaches, staff and, most of all, our players have been wonderful and inspiring to work with. The program is in great shape and I have no doubt it will continue to have a high level of success."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been pushing for more female inclusion in the league and Gottlieb raises the number of women with on-court roles to 10. She joins Becky Hammon (Spurs assistant), Kristi Toliver (Wizards assistant), Karen Stack-Umlauf (Bulls assistant), Natalie Nakase (Clippers player development), Jenny Boucek (Mavericks assistant), Lindsey Harding (Sixers player development) and referees Lauren Holtkamp, Ashley Moyer-Gleich and Natalie Sago.

None of the others can match Gottlieb’s resume.

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