NORWALK — It might sound ironic considering her background, but Rebecca Lobo hopes to keep a low profile in her latest venture. That’s right, Lobo, the former UConn and WNBA star turned ESPN analyst, plans to stay out of the spotlight for a change.
As the new volunteer assistant girls basketball coach at Northwest Catholic in West Hartford, Lobo will do most of her work behind the scenes, away from the crowded gyms and television cameras.
“This is more about skill development. I won’t be sitting on the bench. I won’t be at practices,” said Lobo, who was at Stepping Stones Museum for Children on Thursday to speak about the importance of balancing academics, family and athletics. “In the offseason, I’m hoping to help as much as I can for any kids who want to get better.”
For the last seven years, Lobo has coached second-through eighth-graders in Simsbury. Part of the allure of her new gig is that her oldest daughter will be a freshman at Northwest Catholic in the fall.
“I went and I talked to the president of the school,” Lobo explained. “I said, ‘You know, if you are interested, if your coach is interested, I would love to be able to work with your players in the offseason and help them improve.’ They were open to the idea.
“But it was mostly because I have three daughters. If they all go to Northwest Catholic, I’m going to have a daughter there for the next 10 years.”
Lobo, 44, is perfectly content calling WNBA and women’s college basketball games for ESPN. She has no intentions of becoming the next Becky Hammon, nor is she interested in following Doris Burke’s path as a female NBA analyst. And coaching full-time in high school? Lobo says there’s not enough time in the day for that.
“It’s something I would love to do,” Lobo said. “But the demands of my job wouldn’t allow it. You can’t be a high school varsity coach and miss practice time and miss games — all the things that I would have to do.”
Even an around-the-clock schedule, though, will not prevent Lobo from developing talented high school players.
“There have been some really good players,” Lobo said. “Bria Holmes, (from Hillhouse), played at West Virginia. Tanaya Atkinson (of New Haven) played down at Temple. But why haven’t there been more really high-level Division-I players produced by this state? I don’t know the answer to it.
“Part of the answer might be the restrictions on how much they can work with their coaches in the offseason. I’d like to see, as much as anybody, a bunch of high-level players from the state of Connecticut kind of being worthy UConn prospects.”
Lobo won’t have the most prominent seat on the bench at Northwest Catholic next season. That will go to Al Phillips, a former state championship-winning coach at Bulkeley. Her fingerprints, though, those will be all over the program.
“I’m committed to this,” Lobo said. “I’m excited about it. Hopefully it’s going to be a really fun and rewarding time to just work with kids.”
While Lobo is comfortable in her current role, she’s a firm believer that opportunities exist for other women to coach at not just high school or college, but also the NBA. Look no further than Hammon, who is the first female assistant coach in any of the four major professional sports. Hammon, who has been with the San Antonio Spurs since 2014, recently interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching position (a job that went to Mike Budenholzer). And then there’s former University of Tennessee and WNBA standout Tamika Catchings, who has been outspoken about her desire to be a general manager in the NBA or WNBA.
“She (Hammon) is probably still relatively new and young to the NBA coaching world (to have been) considered a favorite for that job, but it’s a step in the right direction that not only did she get the interview — I don’t really think it was a PR thing. I think it was, ‘Let’s hear from this young, dynamic, smart, well thought of coach.’ … I don’t think there’s any question from NBA players that a woman, Becky included, could be a really good NBA coach.”