Stephanie Ready: Embracing the Unexpected

By Sam Perley,

Becoming an NBA sideline reporter wasn't originally a career goal for Stephanie Ready.

Growing up in Takoma Park, MD, Ready was a standout basketball and volleyball player in high school which ultimately afforded her the opportunity to play collegiately at Coppin State College (now University) in Baltimore where she continued to excel as a two-sport athlete. Ready established herself as one of the Eagles most prolific basketball players in program history, finishing her playing career in 1998 ranked amongst the school’s all-time leaders in points, rebounds, assists and steals. She was also an outstanding student and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with plans of being an industrial psychologist. 

What ultimately transpired was the beginning of something Ready says, “[happened] for a reason.” 

Despite her plans to continue her education, Coppin State men’s basketball coach, Ron “Fang” Mitchell, convinced her to take up coaching and hired her to run the women’s volleyball team at the school. A year later, she began assisting the men’s basketball team on top of her volleyball coaching responsibilities. When Mitchell’s top assistant left to coach the women’s basketball team at Coppin State, Ready was promoted and became the first female Division I recruiter in the NCAA in 2001. 

Before long, an unexpected phone call came from the NBA Developmental League’s Rob Levine and Karl Hicks, both executives with the NBA’s new league development department, who were inquiring with Ready on her interest in coaching men’s professional basketball for the upstart league. Ready continued recruiting for the Coppin State men’s team for a few months while mutual interest grew between both sides. Eventually, a ringing endorsement from Mitchell ultimately helped make Ready the first female assistant coach of a men’s professional team in August of 2001 when she joined the NBA D-League’s Greenville Groove. 

As an assistant, Ready worked with Head Coach Milt Barnes in all aspects of game preparation at seemingly tireless levels.

“There were lots of sleepless nights up late watching video, writing scouting reports and doing game prep,” Ready said. “I did everything the right way and worked my tail off.”

It was an aspect of her career that she reflectively admits is something she is most proud of. The relentless hard work by Barnes and Ready ultimately led the Groove to their only D-League Championship in their first year of existence during the 2001-02 season.

Ready would eventually leave the Groove after the organization was contracted at the conclusion of the 2002-03 season. The former-coach would then make her way into the television side of the sport, joining the Charlotte Bobcats as their sideline reporter during the team’s inaugural 2004-05 NBA season. Since then, Ready has also covered the NBA and WNBA playoffs and the Women’s Final Four of college basketball on ESPN while continuing to roam the sidelines in Charlotte in her now 11th season with the Hornets and FOX SportsSouth.

Ready wouldn't have achieved what she did in coaching or television if it wasn't for hard work and doing everything the right way, although she recognizes the opportunity to work in a male-dominated industry would never have come to be without other people paving the way for her.

“Looking at who came before you, you have to examine the sacrifices that all those people made that allow you and me, specifically, to be in the position that I'm in,” said Ready. “I was the first female coach to work in professional men’s basketball. That happened because there were women who came and coached before me.” 

Even more so as an African-American, Ready understands the importance of paying gratitude to all the people that came before her that made her successes a reality, especially during Black History Month.  

“Being a double-minority if you will because I’m African-American and a woman in the sports industry, (you) have to really be conscientious of how you get to where you are and again who became before you,” she acknowledged. “That’s the common theme. People have worked hard and sacrificed so you can do things while working hard and honoring the memory and sacrifices of the people that came before you.”

Among her mentors in the broadcast industry include ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon, who Ready says has been “extremely helpful and supportive in my career,” as well as former Atlanta Hawks sideline reporter Sandy Sharpe who, “took me under her wing and helped me along.” Ready admits though, “There have been so many people (that have helped me)… I couldn't even name them all but I certainly appreciate everything they've done.”

One of the most important lessons Ready learned during her career came from Wilbon who told her very early on, “‘There is going to come a point one day where you're going to be the one people come to and ask for advice. All I'm asking for you to do is do what I'm doing with you. Help them.”

Understanding the significance of the people who played an integral part in her career for years, Ready has accepted her responsibilities to pay it forward and help others, something she insists she will continue to “always do.” 

As for what’s next for the Hornets sideline reporter, she says she’s very happy where she is working in television. She misses coaching at certain times but says there is not an overwhelming desire to return to the profession at this time. No matter what life ends up throwing her way though, Ready knows to be prepared for anything, because embracing the unexpected is what got her to where she is in the first place.