Game Changer: Grizzlies blazing a new trail this season with team’s 1st female assistant coach
Niele Ivey is living her dream and inspiring other women to do the same
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Ja, Jenkins and Jonas -- just a few good Grizzlies men. It’s been a man’s world for this grit and grind coaching staff since the start of the franchise. Now his story is her story.
That’s right, move over “mane.” The Grizz just got some major girl power.
Niele Ivey is a game changer at 5 feet 7 inches tall in a world of 7 feet-tall men. She’s the first ever Memphis Grizzlies female assistant coach.
“It’s just an incredible feeling,” said Ivey. “Every day I’m just so excited to come to work.”
And she’s been putting in the work since she was a young girl. This St. Louis native comes to the 901 from the 574, home of the Fighting Irish.
And her resume is nothing but net.
“Blessed to have a great career at Notre Dame, won the first Nation Championship, was a point guard on that team and then played in the WNBA, so that was a dream of mine to play professionally,” she said.
Ivey says after a few knee injuries she decided to retire from the Indiana Fever and start her coaching career.
“My first coaching position was back at my alma mater at Notre Dame under Muffett McGraw and her staff," said Ivey. "And I was at Notre Dame for 12 years, won another national championship in 2018 and was a part of nine Final Fours.”
From the NCAA to the WNBA and now the NBA, this boss lady says she’s living her dream -- all thanks to the top man on the Grizz giving her an opportunity of a lifetime.
“He resonates with me because he was a great assistant coach, passionate, you know,” said Ivey. “And then now this is his first opportunity to run his own program. For me, that just resonated with me.”
Speaking of firsts, this is Ivey’s first crack at coaching men. I asked her if she’s intimidated by being the only girl on the court.
“I’m used to being around their age because recruiting and being a recruiting coordinator, these guys are the same age as the girls that I was recruiting,” she said.
As for respect, she plays no games.
“I know how to demand respect as well,” said Ivey. “They haven’t seen the real me yet.”
While coach Ivey knows how to make the boys behave, she says they’re already a great group to work with.
“Since I’ve been here, the team has embraced me, the coaching staff is amazing, I love my boss, the players, the guys, they’re awesome,” she said.
The other guy in her life is her 17-year-old son who is also a ball player.
He gets it from his mama. He’s a senior at a prep school in Indiana, and while Coach Ivey admits the distance is challenging, FaceTime keeps them connected and absence makes their hearts grow fonder.
“We’re leaning on each other and it’s been a great experience for us both,” said Ivey. “We have a great relationship and I’m just so proud of him, and I know that what I’m doing is going to continue to inspire him.”
Coach Ivey is inspiring women too as one of only nine female coaches in the NBA.
“I feel empowered because I feel like I’m empowering other women,” she said. “For me, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s bigger than myself. I want to show women everywhere you can be a mother, you can do whatever, you don’t have to sacrifice anything, you can do them both. Anything is possible.”
Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved.