Lindsey Harding is in her first season as a player development assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings, but her coaching insight is already well beyond her years.
Harding took part in the Jr. NBA Coaches Huddle alongside five other coaches, including Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks, Doc Rivers of the LA Clippers, and Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks. The panel shared lessons about their profession and what they’ve been doing to stay sharp during the pandemic.
Harding was always a natural athlete and involved herself in tackle football, gymnastics, and track at a young age, but she didn’t favor any one particular sport. In fact, she resisted basketball because she didn’t like how much physical contact there was. That all changed when the WNBA arrived in Houston when Harding was 12 years old, and her experience at her first Comets game convinced her that she wanted to play professional basketball.
The seeds of Harding’s coaching career were planted early in her playing career when she was in college at Duke. Her head coach Gail Goestenkors pushed her to become the loudest player on the floor as the point guard and helped her learn how to communicate. Harding said Goestenkors was also the first person to tell her she could be a coach.
“[Goestenkors] would say, ‘When we’re in practice,’ which was three hours back then, maybe three and a half hours. ‘If I hear silence out of you, if you’re not saying anything, if I turn around and you’re not saying anything, you have to run two suicides, back-to-back.’ Nothing’s happening on the court. They’re just dribbling the ball down the court, and she’s like, ‘Harding, why are you not talking? Run.’ I would start saying, ‘Good job! Go! Run!’ I would make things up. But that forced me to communicate. To talk. Then I started talking through plays. Then I started leading. Then she couldn’t shut me up.”
Now that Harding has fully transitioned into coaching, she has two main keys to her approach: her emphasis on the power of positive thinking and the necessity of being collaborative with the head coach and the rest of the staff.
Given her focus on player development, Harding has to provide motivation for the players, but also empower them to motivate themselves. This is where she says thinking positive comes into play.
“One of my coaching philosophies is the power of positive thinking. In any situation, you can choose to be positive or negative…. You don’t want players to underestimate their power. You have that control. You have that power. Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character. Your character becomes your destiny.”
Working together with Luke Walton and the rest of the staff is also of utmost importance. Her goal is to help the players with skill development, which requires an honest understanding of what they’re capable of and how they can contribute on the court. But Harding also wants to help her players earn minutes, and they have to be suited for the role that the team needs. That requires being on the same page as Walton.
In that vein, Harding spoke about how she designs workout regiments for the players.
“I watch a lot of film, looking at when this player was in the game, what things do they need to work on. It could be as simple as footwork or getting shots up. It could be learning the plays or understanding what the plays are for. It changes throughout the season. Some guys play a lot, so it’s not a lot (to do). Some are coming back from injury. Some are rookies coming back and forth from the G League. They may need to work on their shooting form. It varies.
Harding hasn’t been able to work with players for most of the hiatus, though the team facility did reopen on May 11 for limited voluntary workouts. She has taken advantage of the time off to build a new skill — playing the piano — while also clearing her head through meditation, which she hopes she’ll be able to continue even when games restart.
The Kings have a young roster; most of their players have a long ways to go to reach their peak as professional athletes, and having development coaches like Harding and Rico Hines is key to achieving that growth. It’s interesting to hear how Harding approaches her job and how she hopes to create a lasting impact in Sacramento.