Coach Lisa Willis breaks barriers with Westchester Knicks

A former Big Apple baller is back in New York and making a little history in the process. In October, the Westchester Knicks—the NBA G-League affiliate of the New York Knicks—hired Lisa Willis as an assistant coach. She is the first female coach in the 73-year history of the Knicks franchise.

Willis said her knowledge of the game is her greatest asset.

"I'll break down some different IQ-type things," Willis said. "It's challenging up until I realize I have to teach them."

Westchester guard Kadeem Allen echoed those sentiments. He said Willis has a "high basketball IQ" and a lot of experience.

The Los Angeles Sparks selected Willis out of UCLA as the fifth overall pick in the 2006 WNBA draft.

During her collegiate career, she was the first player in the school's history to have 100 steals in three consecutive seasons. Willis, however, is known as a sharpshooter—with the most 3-pointers attempted and made in Bruin history.

Willis would go on to play for the New York Liberty from 2007 to 2008 and the Sacramento Monarchs in 2009. The 35-year-old also played overseas and would go to coach at both the collegiate and high school level.

Before returning to New York in the fall, Willis completed the NBA's Assistant Coaches Program, which provides training in the areas of coaching and front office management to allow former professional players to transition into these types of roles.

Willis believes women can coach just as tough as the men.

"We understand the game very well, so to say we don't know how to battle? We know how to battle. We absolutely know how to battle," Willis said. "So I think that's a misconception that people have." (Story continues)


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Roughly a dozen women serve as assistant coaches and player development coaches in the NBA and G-League, including Willis.

"They left the door open for me to come," Willis said. "Now I have to make sure I keep the door open for others behind me."

While Willis might be the only woman on the court, her presence and attention to detail is a breath of fresh air.

"It's great to have a female perspective on the court," guard Amir Hinton said. "She sees things that sometimes we miss."

Willis said that at the end of the day basketball is just basketball regardless if it is a man or woman hitting a shot from beyond the arc. She said she is "doing it from a different angle now."

The biggest adjustment for the Long Beach, California, native could just be getting used to the cold Northeast weather once again.