Coach Nat: Natalie Nakase, assistant coach of the L.A. Clippers might be the first female head coach to coach an NBA team

The L.A. native went off in her last high school game at Marina High School and won her school the title in her senior year. She then played starting point guard for three years at UCLA and afterwards, the Japanese-American played professionally in Germany. But after suffering an injury, she ended her professional career as a player.

Her next stop was Japan. “I first went there to play basketball but they wouldn’t let me cause I’m not a citizen,” said Nakase in an interview. Her friend, the Japanese basketball player, Darin Maki introduced her to former NBA coach Bob Hill, who was head coach of the Tokyo Apache in the Japanese BJ-League. Nakase impressed Hill with her knowledge and work ethic and there, she became an assistant coach. “Right then I knew that I wanted to coach in the NBA.”

A year later, just twelve days into her assistant coach job with the Saitama Broncos—her second BJ League team, Nakase became the head coach of the team after former head coach Dean Murray was fired. She never forgot her dream of becoming a coach in the NBA. A year later, she landed an unpaid internship at the L.A. Clippers video room, where she impressed former head coach Vinny Del Negro and his staff and landed a permanent position on the team. In the 2012-2013 season, Doc Rivers took over. He was impressed with Kanase’s knowledge and ability and in 2014, Nakase became the first female to be on the team of assistant coaches. In 2017, Nakase was named assistant coach for the NBA G-League’s Agua Caliente Clippers.

“Coaching basketball is just coaching basketball. I really don’t see gender. I just have a curious mindset. I really want to learn. Every day, I want to become better at coaching, better at teaching and seeing the game.”

Nakase now holds the position of assistant coach with the LA Clippers. This season, the Clippers are a playoff team, seated at the eighth seat with a solid 39-30 record. “My end goal is to be a head coach [in the NBA]. I know it’s going to be tough but that’s the beauty in doing anything…to do things that are tough and make people believe in things that are impossible.”