Lin Dunn is a true legend in basketball coaching. Throughout her career, Lin Dunn has fought for equality and change. Denied the opportunity to play college basketball because a women’s program didn’t exist when she was at Tennessee-Martin in the late 1960s, Dunn began coaching at Austin Peay in 1970, prior to Title IX legislation. Dunn coached Purdue to the 1994 Final Four, has coached in the Olympics and world championships and won a WNBA title with the Fever in 2012. One of the most accomplished women’s basketball coaches in history and a pioneer for women in sports, the FCN was lucky enough to chat with Lin and ask her to share her amazing story…
Congratulations on an incredible coaching career! Can you tell us how coaching first began for you?
I grew up in the 1950?s and 60?s and loved all sports, baseball, softball, football, basketball, swimming, gymnastics, we played them all in our neighbourhood! ?I am proud to say I was always as good or better than all the boys! Unfortunately for me there were no sports teams for girls before Title IX for me to compete in until my Junior and Senior year in high school in Tennessee. I got to play 2 yrs of high school basketball the old 1/2 court game. I went on to finish college and my masters before Title IX, so throughout college there were still very few competitive opportunities in for me, only intramurals and a little tennis and volleyball was all that was available for women.
I wanted to stay around sports, so I decided to became a college physical education teacher and coached volleyball, tennis, and basketball, and that?s how my coaching career started. Because I grew up in a very positive environment (I was the 1st born, 1st grandchild) I believed in myself and thought what I didn’t know about coaching I would learn..books, clinics, watching the men.
In your opinion, what has been your greatest and most memorable coaching achievement throughout your career?
My greatest accomplishment in coaching has been the wonderful relationships I have made with my team, but I have so many to mention! One of the most rewarding is to have many former players who now coaching! I also loved the opportunity to represent my country as an Assistant Coach in the Olympics and World Championships
I help to build the Indiana Fever into a World Championship franchise and lastly helping Tamika Catchings win the WNBA Championship she so deserved!
Can you tell us about the 2012 WNBA season in which you won the WNBA Championship with Indiana Fever?
The most rewarding part of our 2012 WNBA championship was how we did it, we overcame so many obstacles, especially as we didn?t have home court advantage in the conference finals or the championship finals! We also lost a key starter and a key backup in the playoffs and of course figuring out a way to beat the defending champions on their home court was tough! But we did get to share that win with 19,000 Fever Fans who attended! Our dear friend Pat Summitt was there for the championship game and I know it meant the world to Tamika Catchings to share that moment with Pat. [Tamika played with Pat at College level]
What is it about being a basketball coach that you love so much?
I love the journey, the roller coaster challenges you have, seeing players get better & stronger & tougher. Every team is unique!
Now that you have stepped down from being Head Coach, do you still have involvement with Indiana Fever and keep a hand in coaching? Do you miss being Head Coach?
I am a Consultant for the Fever now and I am a resource for our new Head Coach, Stephanie White. I will also do some opponent advance scouting for them during the season. I do not miss Head Coaching to be honest, 44 years on the sidelines is enough! ?I have other things I want to do with my time now, consulting with the Fever and college Head Coaches will keep me connected to the game.
You started your coaching career before Title IX, has this law affected your coaching career since its implementation in 1972?
The passage of Title IX in 1972 has had an enormous impact on the growth of women sports and opportunities for girls and women in sport in the US. It is one of the most empowering pieces of legislation for women that has ever been passed by our government. I grew up in Alabama and it was against the law for girls to compete in interscholastic basketball! So thank goodness we moved to Tennessee!
What gave you the confidence to peruse a career in sports coaching and to push it all the way to becoming a WNBA Championship winning coach?
I am extremely competitive in everything I do! All my life if I did something, i wanted to be the best, be first! I also understand that it’s a journey and that dealing with adversity actually makes you better. I have learned great lessons through failure, mistakes and I believe I am a true student of the game.
Why do you think there is a lack of female coaches in elite sport around the World?
Lots of reasons! I do think some women have chosen a different path. Motherhood, staying at home and raising a family all affects our pool of candidates. I also think some female coaches who are gay don’t want to deal with the challenges of being gay in sport.
And lastly, some women don’t want to fight battles in a sexist environment. There’s the Good Ole Boy’s Club where men who make hiring decisions aren’t comfortable working with women.