Lindsay Harding, the hoops savant, stood at the 3-point line, dribbled behind her back right-to-left-to-right-to-left with machine-gun pace, lofted a shot and watched it swish through the net. Ivana Seric, the analytics whiz, collected the ball before it hit the floor and snapped a pass back to Harding so she could do it again, just in case Zhaire Smith hadn’t understood.
The Sixers last week put Harding and Seric on their summer-league staff, the latest step forward for the team and the league. Harding, a former Duke all-American guard and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 WNBA draft, will be on the front of the bench when the Sixers begin play Friday in Las Vegas. Seric, a former four-year starter from the New Jersey Institute of Technology where she earned a doctorate in computational fluid dynamics, will sit right behind her, reminding the coaching staff which player shoots best from where.
Both spent this past week as hands-on coaches, part of the surge in professional men’s sports to incorporate the legion of women. Harding, 35, and Seric, 30, both hope to be NBA head coaches or general managers one day.
The Sixers hired Harding last summer as a scout, then made her the seventh female assistant in NBA history in April when she was promoted to player development coach. She has since worked extensively with Smith, a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. With Harding in his ear, Smith’s ballhanlding is crisper and his jump shot is smoother.
Her authenticity helps.
“She was a player. She knows all the tricks of the trade,” Smith said. “She knows what she’s talking about. People sometimes look at women like they don’t know what they’re talking about. I really respect her.”
To Smith’s point, when Harding and Seric ran drills during summer league practices, no one batted an eyelash. When the Celtics added former Tennessee star Kara Lawson to their bench Wednesday, it brought the number of female assistants hired by NBA teams to nine. They’re becoming as much a part of the NBA scene as sneakers and shot clocks.
“Lindsey’s in charge of a portion of our offense,” said summer league head coach Connor Johnson. "She’ll be taking a lot of responsibility on the offensive end, and working a lot in player development.
Seric, a data scientist, will use numbers to formulate strategy.
“That’s big on lineups. Big on offensive and defensive concepts -- who we’re getting the ball in which situations,” Johnson said. “They’ve both been huge assets to have.”
The Sixers made neither Harding nor Seric available for this story.
Neither is new to these jobs. Seric served in a similar role last year at summer league. Harding helped out the Raptors during their 2015 summer league season, just before she began the eighth of her 10 professional seasons as a player. That was the summer that Becky Hammon was the head coach of the Spurs’ summer league team, a year after the team had made her the first full-time assistant in NBA history. It was in 2015 that Harding realized that the NBA could be a home for her someday.
Two years later, as she completed her six-year PhD program at NJIT, Seric noticed a job posting as the Sixers expanded their analytics department, and she pounced. For the past two years her in-season responsibilities included attended pregame meetings with Brett Brown and her boss, Sergi Oliva, to present the extensive analytics packages they use to prepare for games that count.
For both of them, coaching on the sidelines in Vegas is the next logical step.