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How Pacers coach Jenny Boucek’s breaking down barriers in the NBA

How Pacers coach Jenny Boucek’s breaking down barriers in the NBA

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If you go to an Indiana Pacers game or even watch it on television, odds are you’ll notice Jenny Boucek on the bench — the only woman on that bench.

“She is paving the way for other girls and women that will follow her,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said.

Boucek joined the Pacers three years ago. She became the first female assistant coach in team history and is currently only the third woman coaching in the NBA.

“When I was growing up, you didn’t see a lot of opportunities for girls,” said Boucek, who grew up a three-sport athlete in Nashville, Tennessee. “When you grew up you’d be a teacher, maybe a nurse, and that’s about all you saw. And I saw boys when they grew up, you could be it all. So in a young mind, I was like, well, I want to be a boy then because I have opportunities and choices to do whatever I want to do, and hopefully that’s changing.”

Boucek’s a part of that change. She was a player in the WNBA’s first year. She had two stints as a head coach in the W.

Now, she’s breaking down walls in the NBA, thanks to the help of Carlisle, who she met 10 years ago during the Dallas Mavericks’ training camp.

“Being around her for that month gave me strong clarity that she could not only coach in the NBA, but she could be a very high-level coach in the NBA,” Carlisle said. “She’s proven that to be accurate.”

“You don’t do things like this as a minority without advocates of the majority,” Boucek said. “You have to have advocates, people fighting for you, people believing in you to even get an opportunity, to even be in the room, and Rick is that. He believes in me more than I believe in myself at times, and he’s fought for me a great deal.”

Boucek’s career continues to grow. This year, she became the first woman to ever become a front of the bench assistant coach in NBA.

To her players, she’s more than just a member of the Pacers coaching staff.

“She’s my coach, my therapist, all of the above,” Pacers guard TJ McConnell said. “She’s been integral in my growth mentally, physically, and with my shot. She’s just such a smart basketball coach — male, female, it doesn’t matter. She’s been around the game for a long time, and you can tell by the way she carries herself and when she speaks about the game, everyone listens because she knows what she’s talking about. I have a lot of love and respect for Jenny.”

“Ever since I’ve known her, everything she does is with a lot of passion, a lot of care,” Pacers center Myles Turner said. “She has a humane side. She also has a switch she can flip, as well. I just respect her being in a male-dominated industry, being able to have opinions that actually help, that are facts, and actually grow our game.”

Boucek’s hope for the future is simple.

“That this becomes no longer a conversation,” Boucek said. “That it’s just normal and expected, and it doesn’t stand out when there is a female in whatever position. That it’s about your talent, it’s about your passion, it’s about your gifts and it’s not about your gender.”

Boucek’s proving that every day in Blue and Gold.