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Kara Lawson

  • As of Jan. 27, 2023

Kara Lawson, the head women’s basketball coach at Duke University and a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, led the inaugural U.S. Olympic 3x3 Women's Basketball Team to an 8-1 record and gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, which was the debut of 3x3 as an Olympic event. In recognition of her leadership, Lawson was named the 2021 USA Basketball 3x3 Coach of the Year on Dec. 9, 2021.

Lawson returned to USA Basketball in a five-on-five coaching role for the 2022 FIBA Women's World Cup, serving as an assistant coach for the 2022 USA National Team, which won World Cup gold in Sydney. She was also a court coach for the 2022 USA National Team's spring minicamp in Minneapolis.

Lawson has helped USA Basketball teams to seven 3x3 gold medals since 2017, including on the women’s side at the 2020 Olympics, 2017 and 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cups and 2018 Youth Olympic Games; on the men’s side at the 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup; and with both the U.S. men’s and women’s team at the 2019 Pan American Games.

In 2021, she also helped guide the USA 3x3 Women's National Team to a 6-0 record at the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament from May 26-30 in Graz, Austria. The USA's semifinal win at that tournament secured the USA's Olympic 3x3 berth. 

Lawson began her legendary career as a athlete with USA Basketball in 1998 with the bronze-medal USA World Youth Games Team. Through her tenure as a player, Lawson captured gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games, 2007 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2001 World University Games. Lawson is also the U.S. Olympic women's career record holder for 3-point percentage after shooting 57.1% from 3-point (8-of-14) in the 2008 Olympics.

Lawson guided USA teams to three-straight gold medals for the U18 women (2017 and 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup and 2018 Youth Olympic Games) and the first ever title for the U18 men at the 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup. The other two gold medals came from the 2019 U.S. 3x3 Men’s and Women’s Pan American Games Teams.

She also served as the athlete representative on the 2017-2021 USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee, which selected coaches and athletes for USA Basketball college-aged competitions, such as the FIBA U19 World Cups FIBA Americas U18 Championships World University Games and Pan American Games.

Her impact on the women’s basketball community is evident as she was named one of the 100 most influential people in women’s college basketball as announced by Silver Waves Media in the summer of 2020.

Following an exceptional playing career, Lawson spent two years as the primary television analyst for the Washington Wizards while also broadcasting games for ESPN Radio. In addition to her role covering the Wizards for NBC Sports Washington, Lawson served as a game and studio analyst for men’s and women’s college basketball and the NBA for ESPN. On January 12, 2007, she became the first female analyst for a nationally-televised NBA game.

Hired as the Duke head coach on July 11, 2020, Lawson's first season was cut short - the Blue Devils played just four games - due to COVID concerns. In 2021-22, she guided Duke to a 17-13 mark and the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and currently owns a 20-14 overall record as a collegiate head coach.

Prior to Duke, Lawson in 2019-20 was an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. She had helped Boston to a 43-21 record and into third place in the Eastern Conference prior to the stoppage of the 2019-20 NBA season due to COVID-19. Lawson was the Celtics first female coach in the franchise’s 73-year history.

In 13 WNBA seasons, Lawson averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 377 career games with the Sacramento Monarchs, Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics from 2003 to 2015. She surpassed 3,000 points, 800 rebounds and 700 assists in the WNBA.  Lawson was the No. 5 overall selection by the Detroit Shock in the 2003 WNBA Draft.

A four-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-America choice at Tennessee, Lawson played for the late Pat Summitt and led the Lady Vols to three NCAA Final Four appearances during her collegiate career. Lawson appeared in 143 games, making 137 starts, and helped Tennessee to a 126-17 overall and 54-2 mark in the SEC over her four seasons. Lawson guided the Lady Vols to four straight SEC regular season and tournament crowns, as well as 2000, 2002 and 2003 NCAA Final Four appearances.

Lawson currently ranks third all-time at Tennessee in 3-point field goals made (256), second in 3-point field goal percentage (.415) and also ranks third in career free throw percentage (.847). Lawson averaged 13.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while closing her career ranking sixth in career points with 1,950. Lawson also was stellar in the classroom and was a 2003 CoSIDA/Verizon Academic All-America first team selection.

Lawson’s playing career has her in elite company as she is one of only three NCAA Division I women’s basketball coaches to play in a NCAA Final Four, win an Olympic Gold Medal and win a WNBA Championship (Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota and Cynthia Cooper-Dyke of Texas Southern).

In 2003, Lawson was one of seven recipients of the prestigious Torchbearer Award given by the University of Tennessee. 

As a senior at West Springfield High School, she was selected the 1999 Naismith High School Player of the Year while earning All-America accolades from USA Today, Parade and the WBCA. Additionally, she was the 1998 and 1999 Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia and led her squad to two state championships.

Lawson graduated from Tennessee in 2003 with a degree in finance. She remains a member of the Tennessee Board of Trustees.

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