ESPN hoops analyst, WNBA vet Kara Lawson continues her unique double-double

Kara Lawson
Kara Lawson’s “second season” starts up on Friday in her first season with the Washington Mystics. (Photos courtesy Washington Mystics/ESPN Images)

The college basketball season was jam-packed for ESPN analyst Kara Lawson. She navigated her travel schedule to men’s and women’s games across the nation and still maintained a training regimen for the upcoming WNBA season.

ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, ESPN women’s basketball analyst and former WNBA star, on Kara Lawson:
“It is unique to call a game where a co-worker is playing. There are situations where people call games in which former colleagues coach, but playing is different. This WNBA season will be a little different. Kara and I spent a lot of time working together this past college season as part of the studio show and grew to be very good friends.

“In both basketball and broadcasting, Kara is very disciplined and works extremely hard. She is clearly competitive and wants to be the best at anything she does. It is the trait that makes her a great commentator and a great athlete.”

Lawson, who joined ESPN in 2004 as a women’s college basketball analyst while playing for the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs, is now in the midst of her 12th year in the league. On Friday against the Minnesota Lynx, Lawson begins her first season with the Washington Mystics. The point guard, who played last season with the Connecticut Sun, grew up in the D.C. area.

The WNBA regular-season schedule on ESPN networks opens Saturday, on ESPN2 from Madison Square Garden as the New York Liberty hosts the Chicago Sky. The ESPN/ESPN2 20-game WNBA schedule includes six doubleheaders, with five airing on Tuesday evenings in July. All games can also be seen via WatchESPN.

Front Row caught up with Lawson between the Women’s Final Four and tip-off to her WNBA season:

What is the transition like from calling games on ESPN networks to playing in the games?
The biggest transition is the physical one. There are no bumps and bruises sitting behind our courtside booth. I love the competition and you feel it while playing, instead of just witnessing it while broadcasting. Mentally, they both provide stimulation. It is a narrowed-down, focused preparation on one opponent in the summers. In the winter, it is also focused preparation, but I have to be intimately familiar with both teams playing that night, and also mindful of what is going on across the college basketball landscape.

Kara Lawson (l) and Rebecca Lobo (Allen Kee/ESPN Images)
Kara Lawson (l) and Rebecca Lobo
(Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

How do you stay in “game” shape during the winter?
Staying in shape at any level requires great discipline and commitment. I have to prioritize my day accordingly, and I try to start my day off with training. I can have a clear head and then have the rest of the day to watch tape, attend shoot-arounds and prepare commentary. On days I have early travel – 6 a.m. flights are a part of the deal – my rule of thumb is to get off of the plane and head to training right away. I find I have more energy post workout and more desire to study and prepare.

Which WNBA player or coaches would make the best ESPN on-air talent and which on-air talent would make the best teammate/coach?
I don’t know if there is one teammate that sticks out as someone who would transition well to an on-air position. Some are certainly more comfortable speaking in front of people than others, and I think each one of them could bring something to the table. At this level, you can’t always rely on your physical skills. There has to be some level of understanding and ability to break down the game.

As far as behind-the-scenes people go, I think studio producer Mike Diesenhof would make a good pro coach. He has the ability to connect with the talent, allows for our input – really important at the pro level – and doesn’t change when the lights go on. Players respect competency, consistency and people that keep it real.

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