Andy Murray breaks mold with hire

PARIS -- Geno Auriemma coaches UConn's women's basketball team.

Gary Blair coaches the Texas A&M women's team. Jim Littell coaches the Oklahoma State women's team. Jeff Judkins coaches the BYU women's team. And roughly 40 percent of the women's teams in the top six conferences are also coached by men. Meanwhile, Bill Laimbeer coaches the WNBA's New York Liberty. Brian Agler coaches the Seattle Storm, Michael Cooper coaches the Atlanta Dream and well, I could go on and on.

But quick. Name some women coaching men's teams. Oh, Nancy Lieberman briefly coached the Texas Legends of the NBA's developmental league, but she no longer does. And otherwise? Not much jumps out. It's notable that in compiling a list of female coaches in male sports, Ruth Lovelace coaching a high school boys basketball team years ago is prominently mentioned.

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Amelie Mauresmo says it will be a challenge to take on the role as Andy Murray's coach. She's also quite up for that challenge.

That's what makes Andy Murray hiring Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach Sunday notable and welcome.

There are great female coaches in women's sports. But few if any ever get a chance to coach on the men's side, particularly in team sports. This is partly due to a lack of field experience in pro sports such as football and baseball, but it's also due to simple bias and chauvinism, mostly from the people in position to hire them. Sure, some guys would be resistant to taking direction from a woman. But many would accept it just as easily as they would from a man. All they need is a chance to prove it.

So many male athletes credit their mothers for all they did in raising them. There is no reason they cannot be as instrumental and inspirational in coaching. After all, Murray's mother, Judy, also coached him as a junior and he says she was instrumental in turning him into a champion. It's no surprise then that he is willing to hire Mauresmo.

Tennis has equal pay and equal prestige for men and women. There are just as many women who know the game as men. Basketball has plenty of opportunities for women as well. These are the sports where the ground needs to be broken first.

The pressure will be on Mauresmo. Murray is already a Wimbledon champ and No. 8 in the world, so lifting his game further won't be easy, especially with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in his way. But she has the qualifications. She won two Grand Slams. She was ranked No. 1. And Murray obviously feels she can do the job. If she can, she will break down a barrier that has been up far too long.

"I know it's a major event in a way in the world of tennis -- in the world of sports, as well,'' Mauresmo said. "But, you know what? As I have said before, it's a challenge. It's a professional goal for me. This is what I'm interested in. It's not an easy thing. It's not simple. I have to live up to this challenge. I'll dedicate all of my energy and focus on this, and then if we can manage to change the situation, that's a good thing.''

And it's about time.

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