Chasity Melvin Rises Through NBA Assistant Coaches Program to Make History

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Chasity Melvin’s journey to the NBA G League as the first female assistant coach hired through the NBA’s Assistant Coaches Program starts on a path largely unpaved. She’ll become the first female coach in the Hornets’ and Swarm’s history, dating back to 1988. While the challenge of pioneering a brand new route for those that come after you includes plenty of adversity, Melvin has proven herself time and time again on and off the court.

Melvin was named a WNBA All-Star in 2001 with the Cleveland Rockers in the midst of a 12-year professional basketball career and has now been actively involved for several years as a program ambassador with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in Raleigh, North Carolina. The fund is named after her late college coach at NC State, Kay Yow, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2009, and raises money for all women’s cancer research.

While Melvin’s groundbreaking venture is officially underway with NBA G League training camps open, her journey to the G League started with an encounter with NBA Player Development Officer Stacey Lovelace — also a former WNBA player — at an AAU tournament last summer.

“It was the last minute to apply and [Lovelace] was just letting me know that the application deadline was right around the corner, so I applied and got into the program,” Melvin said. “Just like anything else, I wanted to do the best, I wanted to be the best and I wanted to take advantage of my opportunity.”

The Assistant Coaches Program (ACP), formed by the NBA’s Player Development department, helps former NBA, WNBA and NBA G League players transition from player to a coaching/front office role. The ACP has placed notable former players such as Jerry Stackhouse, James Posey and Vin Baker within different franchises. NBA organizations who opt into the program have the chance to interview this former player pool for open NBA and NBA G League assistant coaching opportunities. Once Greensboro Swarm head coach Joe Wolf had the chance to speak with Melvin, he knew she was the right fit for the job.

“In interviewing Chasity, she had talked about video editing, scouting, scouting paperwork and her coaching experience at the PIT [Portsmouth Invitational Tournament],” Wolf said. “The one thing that was really noticeable in her interview was her energy. She spoke with such passion about all of these different events. You have to enjoy that energy, and from that energy, I saw that she had developed as a coach. I just thought she was perfect for the opportunity, not only for her own development, but for our energy as a staff and our chemistry.”

Melvin noted that her time in the ACP prepared her for what life as an NBA, NBA G League or WNBA coach really presents.

“I watched the NBA my entire life, but the ACP focuses in on what the business side of the NBA is like,” Melvin said. “I didn’t study the NBA as much as far as the coaching staff, the scouting work, what it takes to make the scouting report, what it takes to deal with the analytics and all that kind of stuff. We had different homework assignment in the ACP and it was basically an online class in terms of different things we had to turn in and different things we had to study and learn about the league. It gave you a quick course about what you thought you wanted to do and if you really wanted to coach in the NBA.”

When Melvin first found out that she’d been granted the opportunity as a Swarm assistant coach, she was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I’ve been trying to coach since I retired in 2014,” Melvin said. “I coached high school for two years and was applying to college and WNBA jobs to try and get my foot back in the door with the WNBA. I didn’t see the offer as history originally. I just said, ‘Mom, I finally got a coaching job!”

While the initial rush of adrenaline about completing a lifelong dream generated an immense amount of excitement, Melvin quickly realized how important the path she’d be paving for young women after her would be.

“To be a part of history is always great and it’s always great for me and my family and my friends back home because I’m from such a small town,” Melvin said. “I grew up in a one-stoplight town in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. So for the poor, rural counties in North Carolina, I just want to inspire them that the journey will be challenging and different, but that they can accomplish any of the goals and dreams that they want to. It’s also great to inspire young women, especially young African-American women, who want to get into sports.”

Melvin’s values were largely carved from the mentorship of her late college coach, Yow, whose fund she worked at between her retirement from professional basketball and the start of her coaching career. Yow inspired Melvin to understand basketball better on and off the court and how to develop herself within the game.

“My late coach from NC State, Kay Yow, was tremendous.” Melvin said. “I say she’s my basketball mom because she taught me everything I needed to know on the court, but also how to be a professional off the court. I had her still for a couple of years to mentor me through my professional career, and although she didn’t play professionally, she taught me the nuances off the court that help you sustain your career. When I would complain, she taught me that there’s different systems and that all the coaches you play for aren’t going to be the same. She always gave me great advice and I feel like she’s smiling down on me now because I learned a lot more from working for her fund as a person than I ever could’ve while I played for her.”

Looking ahead to the 2018-19 NBA G League season, Melvin is excited to get to the Greensboro Swarm bench and help develop young prospects the way that Kay Yow helped develop her as a coach and a boss. (Joining her on the staff are new assistant coaches Evan Harville, Dave Kenah and Dan Tacheny.)

Swarm head coach Joe Wolf is equally excited to start the year with Melvin by his side.

“After a fabulous WNBA career, she’s transformed herself into a high-energy person that understands that she wants to be a coach,” Wolf said. “She’s taken the things that she understands from her playing days that are relevant and applies them to situations now. Just sitting in meetings with her has been insightful, so I can’t wait to get on the court with her and get her passion and knowledge there as well.”