King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Transsexuals on the medal stand? A female coach in the NBA? A good week for gender issues. Plus: Flames, Sharks, bed.

By Salon Staff

Published May 18, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

Lots of interesting gender-role news this week. The International Olympic Committee cleared transsexuals to compete for the first time beginning in Athens this year, and 22-year-old former Vanderbilt guard Ashley McElhiney became the first woman coach of a professional men's basketball team when she was hired by the expansion Nashville Rhythm of the minor league American Basketball Association.

Stand by for some stupid commentary from around the horn about the transsexual thing. Tiger Woods can shake off his slump by hitting from the ladies tees! Michael Olowokandi can jump to the WNBA and finally become the dominant player he was supposed to be coming out of college! The Klitschko brothers -- I mean sisters! -- could take any ex-champ's daughter in the room! All they need is a little nip and tuck!

Doctors say the greater muscle mass and testosterone levels that men have drop after hormone therapy, the Associated Press said in its report. The IOC will require that transsexual athletes be legally recognized in their new gender and that they undergo at least two years of postoperative hormone therapy before competing.

I think it'll be a long time, if ever, but I can't wait for the first transsexual medal contender. That'll make for some interesting conversations. It'll also introduce most people, I suspect, to the first transsexual they've ever known. I wonder how the reaction will differ from the firestorm 30 years ago around transsexual tennis player Renee Richards, who, interestingly, spoke out against the IOC's decision Monday.

I also think it'll be a long time coming for a woman to coach in the NBA, but that's what Nashville Rhythm owner Sally Anthony says she's hoping to promote. "Ultimately, I think the Nashville Rhythm, and the ABA as a whole, can be a steppingstone for a qualified woman to coach in the NBA," she said in announcing the hiring of McElhiney.

I've often wondered about women coaching in men's basketball, and I don't mean Whoopi Goldberg. I was thinking more about college than pro ball, though. It seems pretty far-fetched to picture elite male basketball players taking direction from a woman, but then again in my lifetime it seemed pretty far-fetched to picture female bosses as not being unusual. And I'm not that old.

OK, I'm that old, but I'm not, you know, that old.

If the NBA ever has a female coach, the first one won't be McElhiney, I'm willing to bet. I think it's going to have to be someone who was a star player in the WNBA. McElhiney was cut last year by the Indiana Fever without ever getting into a game. Star players tend not to make great coaches, but that pioneer is going to have to be able to demand some "I was good at this too" respect, going to have to be able to do, or at least have done, the things she's asking her players to do.

Diana Taurasi, about to start her rookie season in the WNBA, might be someone to keep an eye on.

Which do you think we'll see first: a female president of the United States or a female coach in the NBA?

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Sharks, Flames, blowouts and the "off" button [PERMALINK]

I'd like to shake the hand of every single person in the Eastern Time Zone who watched the end of Monday night's Sharks-Flames game Tuesday morning. I have a few minutes Wednesday. Let's meet at Katz's Deli in New York. Somebody grab the back corner table.

You are a fine hockey fan indeed if you stayed up to the wee hours to watch the end of a game that started at 10 p.m. EDT, involved Western teams and was over by the middle of the first period, when the Sharks had given up a pair of goals on egregious turnovers.

This is yet another problem with the NHL's current lack of scoring, which I've been making an effort not to harp on during these mostly entertaining playoffs. But it just seems to me that a sport in which a two-score lead is all but insurmountable is a sport that needs fixing.

I stayed up to the bitter end, a 3-0 Flames win that gave them a 3-2 series lead and a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals with a home win Wednesday night. But I did so only out of professional duty, and I'm only in the Central Time Zone. Besides, I'm an expatriate Sharks fan. But how many people stuck around after that second Flames goal, knowing a Sharks comeback was extremely unlikely?

The NHL, headed for a disastrous lockout and shutdown in September, has bigger problems at the moment, but at some point, the lack of scoring -- which sometimes produces tense, exciting showdowns, especially at playoff time -- has to be addressed, because those people tuning out when a team goes up by a pair are taking money with them.

In the Western Conference finals, the average margin of victory has been 2.4 goals. That would be OK in a game where a two-goal deficit wasn't a near-death sentence. In the NHL, it's an invitation to hit the "off" button and then the hay.

Previous column: Only fools write off the Lakers

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