Natalie Wisdom, now 26-year-old female assistant coach for the Sonoma State men’s basketball team, made history in 2014. She just didn’t know it at the time.
Wisdom is the first woman to be an assistant coach on a men’s basketball team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“It was never intended to change history or to be the only female,” said Wisdom.
Yet, that’s what has transpired.
“It’s not just me. Yes, I have to show up, but the players are half the equation too and a lot of times people forget that,” said Wisdom.
While the coaches are the foundation of the team because they are teaching their athletes, the players are the ones that must absorb those teachings as well as execute what they are taught.
To this day she has yet to leave the sport she loves. She has been coaching for five years now, her first job being at Santa Rosa Junior College, where she began her college basketball career.
“I gave it a shot in third grade and I just never left,” said Wisdom.
In her 2007-08 season she was redshirted due to injury, but came back both healthier and stronger than ever to play the next two seasons (2008-10). She even took her team to a State Tournament Final Four in the 2009-10 season.
After her playing days in junior college, Natalie transferred to Sonoma State where she earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and criminology.
From there she went back to the junior college to work under Lacy Campbell as an assistant coach of the women’s basketball team. In her time there she helped lead the Bear Cubs to four straight California Community College Athletic Association Elite Eight appearances, including one State Championship (2010-11).
After her fourth year, Wisdom realized she needed a change.
“I was getting pretty comfortable at the junior college, coaching there for four years under Lacy Campbell, and [while] we worked really well together, I had played for her for three years,” said Wisdom. “I would have been going into my eighth year in her program. I just kind of thought it’s time for a change…I was getting too comfortable, too routine.”
That’s when she and Pat Fuscaldo started talking about her options as a coach.
“When Natalie was leaving Santa Rosa Junior College she called me, and asked me for my advice,” said Fuscaldo. “We were talking about a school in Sacramento and another junior college.”
It was then that Wisdom asked if he had a job opening.
“In passing [one day] in a conversation, I jokingly [asked], what about you, do you have a job?” said Wisdom.
Little did she know that Fuscaldo had just recently lost his assistant coach, therefore leaving her with a few options to consider. She had coaching in her blood, she was an alumna, and this was a position that would challenge her and help her grow as a coach.
Natalie filled that coaching vacancy at Sonoma State, and has been a welcomed addition to coach Pat Fuscaldo’s staff and the first woman to be an assistant coach on a men’s basketball team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“I have a weird life, I have a degree in criminal justice and I coach basketball,” said Wisdom.
This weird life she has is something that got her to where she is today.
Since she has a degree in criminal justice and criminology, one would think she will be pursuing a life in said field, but who knows. No one knows if she will stick around, not even her.
“I am actually attending a political conference at the end of this month in Washington, D.C.,” said Wisdom, “so I am actually a little bit active in politics.”
Yet her passion for basketball is what is keeping her as a coach for Sonoma State.
“You graduate college and you expect to walk into your dream job, but that doesn’t happen, that’s not the reality of it,” said Wisdom.
True it is not, but when describing her dream job, Wisdom didn’t know. She is simply taking it day by day, learning all she can.