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We're seeing more progress, and not just anecdotal, in women's sports

Mohegan — Women's sports advocates have bristled at the following premise over the years: That the path to legitimacy must run through the male prism. Essentially, it means that women won't be fully taken seriously, despite the growing popularity of women's sports, until their prominence becomes apparent in the games men play.

And while such a sentiment may straddle the boundary lines of political correctness, facts are facts: men monopolize mainstream sports.

This is used as prologue for some recent developments within the women's sports revolution that speak to progress. Not anecdotal progress, either. Concrete evidence that there is an ever brightening light for the way.

Example I: The Cleveland Cavaliers recently signed Lindsay Gottlieb, now the former women's basketball coach at the University of California, to a four-year contract as an assistant coach.

Example II: The New Orleans Pelicans recently hired former UConn women's great Swin Cash to become their Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development.

Gottlieb and Cash join Becky Hammon, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, and some others as pioneers into the male-dominated panorama of professional sports. Mad props and bon mots to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and other league executives for some forward thinking. Note to baseball, football and hockey: You are on notice.

"My first thought is 'it's about time,'" Amber Cox, the Vice President of Sports at Mohegan Sun who oversees the Connecticut Sun and New England Black Wolves, said Friday before the Sun played the Atlanta Dream in Neon Uncasville.

"For a long time, an entire gender was shut out," Cox said. "It's nice to see that women are being recognized and noticed for what they can offer."

Our state deserves at least peripheral commendation for advancements in hiring practices. Connecticut has been the home office for the women's sports revolution, namely because of its longtime love affair with UConn women's basketball and its steady support of the Sun and the WNBA. There is no greater name or advocate for women's sports than UConn coach Geno Auriemma, whose fame and resume will always be tethered to the passions of the fan base here.

And yet the hirings of Cash and Gottlieb, while feted by national media outlets, have ho-hummed their way through Connecticut. Disappointing. Because they're a big deal. And we here in the women's sports capital of the world ought to be waving the flag with the most verve.

We've been at the forefront of something to which many other outposts in the country have been ignorant over the years: women can do this too. At high levels. And now the Pelicans have given Cash a management position. John Beilein, new coach of the Cavs, thinks enough of a woman to add her to his staff.

Heck, even locally, a high school athletic director (Hildie Heck at Old Lyme) thought enough of a woman (Ally Gleason) to name her the new coach of the boys' soccer team.

None of this is lip service. This is earnest, honest action.

The Sun honored women of influence last weekend at Mohegan Sun Arena with their "Burn It Down" campaign, a cleverly concocted idea that fortifies the idea of women's legitimacy in sports.

"We stand for change. For diversity. For strength," the Burn It Down concept goes, per the Sun's website. "We represent equality every time we step on the court as professional athletes. The old stereotypes of what women should become, look like, sound like, dress like — we're here to burn them all down — by the way we unapologetically work, speak up, love and live. We are showing the next generation of young girls, there are no boundaries.

"So this season, woven into everything we do on and off the court, you'll hear this message. Burn It Down. Because what was, is no more."

What was: women bereft of opportunity in men's sports.

It is no more.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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