Liz Mills takes big step for female basketball coaches

Kenya national men's basketball team head coach Liz Mills, center-right, poses with assistant coach Sadat Gaya, center-left, for a photograph with the team at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. Australian Liz Mills has been coaching men's basketball teams for 10 years in Africa and is now head coach of Kenya and the only woman in the world currently in charge of a men's national basketball team. (Courtesy of Liz Mills)
Kenya national men's basketball team head coach Liz Mills, center-right, poses with assistant coach Sadat Gaya, center-left, for a photograph with the team at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. Australian Liz Mills has been coaching men's basketball teams for 10 years in Africa and is now head coach of Kenya and the only woman in the world currently in charge of a men's national basketball team. (Courtesy of Liz Mills)

CAPE TOWN – Liz Mills’ decision to look more professional when coaching basketball games by wearing high-heeled leather boots instead of sneakers was somehow seen as provocation.

To make sense of that, you have to understand her environment.

Mills coaches men's basketball. She has for a decade in Africa at both the club and national level. The Australian is now head coach of Kenya, the only woman in the world currently in charge of a men's national team.

She decided years ago that she may as well confront the issue. The woman in the room, if you like. And so, the boots.

“I think it was a way of looking more professional but also reminding everybody that I’m a woman and I’m not afraid of that and I want you to know that,” Mills said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to walk in and be like, this is me, here I am.”

Some male officials tried to stop her from wearing the boots, citing damage to the court. Mills knew that was a lie.

“They were offended by my presence," she said.

In a way, the boots ultimately worked out. Mills hasn't had any problems recently. In fact, there was a commotion when Mills didn't wear them one game. They're now accepted, even embraced. Maybe Mills is also.