News & Politics

What It’s Like to Coach in the NBA—for Exponentially Less Money Than a Guy Makes

Mystics guard Kristi Toliver, 32, is an assistant coach for the Wizards.

Photograph by Lauren Bulbin

Washington Mystics player Kristi Toliver spends her off-season as an assistant coach for the Wizards, but due to an obscure WNBA clause that applies because both her teams share an owner, she makes only $10,000—a pittance compared with the $100,000 to $1,000,000 that her male counterparts earn for the same job.

“Playing is the best. Any NBA coach would tell you that. I’m lucky that I get to have both experiences, because they bring out different parts of me. The guys have been great, and I think it’s been great for them, because when things come up in pop culture, we talk. We talk about LGBTQ stuff. They’ll ask questions. They have a person they feel comfortable with, not feeling like I’m going to look at them weird. I thought that was very cool. I think women athletes are more likely to take on certain topics, politically or otherwise. People say all the time, ‘Is it because we have less to lose, whether it’s money or endorsements or whatever?’ I don’t know. But I think we’re very aware that if we don’t use our voice for ourselves and for others who can’t speak, then we’re going nowhere.

This story is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Washington.” For more:

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“[The NBA pay] is obviously frustrating. I love the WNBA, because I get the camaraderie with my teammates and play the game I love. Then on the other hand, it’s like, I hate the WNBA because they’re taking away another opportunity that I didn’t realize was a dream of mine, essentially. I mean, obviously I want to do it next year and the Wizards want me to be here next year. But I can’t do it again and not get paid. It’s messed up. I’ve had other job opportunities with other teams. But why should I have to go somewhere else? Or why should I have to leave the Mystics? It would be one or the other. It’s just a choice that I shouldn’t have to make.”

This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Contributing Editor

Amanda has contributed to Washingtonian since 2016. She has written about the right-wing media personality Britt McHenry, chronicled her night with Stormy Daniels, and come clean about owning too much stuff. She lives on H Street. She can be reached at [email protected].