Inside Duke's Search For Kara Lawson


Duke conducted a 10-day, nationwide search for its new women’s head coach after Joanne McCallie resigned unexpectedly in early July.

The school’s Senior Deputy Director of Athletics for Administration, Nina King, organized the search that resulted in the school’s hiring Kara Lawson. King broke down the process.

“On July 2, we engaged Collegiate Sports Associates to conduct a national search for us,” she said. “Our main priority was to work swiftly and as efficiently as we could, given the unique nature of the times we’re experiencing.”

The North Carolina-based search firm, founded by former NC State athletic director Todd Turner, has a long relationship with Duke.

“We have a great track record of success with CSA,” King said. “They’ve assisted us here at Duke in securing now seven outstanding current Duke head coaches.”

King wouldn’t mention the names of any other candidates the school considered.

“We vetted and evaluated over 20 serious candidates,” she said. “From there, we had conversations with six and then invited two for finalist interviews before announcing our selection on Saturday.”

An internal committee conducted the interviews, and King said that school president Vincent Price and “select members of the board of trustees” were also involved in the process.

The search also sought input from current members of the team senior Jade Williams, redshirt junior Mikayla Boykin and junior Onome Akinbode-James.

“Mikayla, Jade and Onome all participated,” King said. “When Kara became our top candidate, we had them spend some time having a conversation with Kara so that we could get their feedback. This day and age, we certainly want student-athlete feedback in a lot of parts of the process, and we really valued what they had to say. They obviously had a great conversation with Kara and are all in.”

Lawson has never coached at the collegiate level, but King said the committee didn’t hold that against her.

“It was the sum total of all of Kara’s experiences,” King said. “While she hasn’t been a college coach, she spent thousands of hours at practice, talking to coaches, around student-athletes during her time as a broadcaster. During her time as USA Basketball 3-on-3 coach, she’s been with college student-athletes. So she’s not coming into the college scene from scratch. It’s just different and unique experiences. We were kind of looking at the total package, and Kara had it all for us. In evaluating all of our candidates, they all had unique experiences and characteristics. For us, Kara just rose to the top.”