How Liz Mills became the first woman to coach a men’s basketball team in an international tournament
She was inspired by the United States Basketball Invitational, a tournament that had recently started up in Taiwan and was already drawing well attended crowds of thousands watching the games live on a satellite feed. She also spotted a new American-based coach of the men’s team, a former player she had met a few times. Her first choice for the job would have been another American coach, but with Chinese officials threatening to pull the team out of the tournament if his squad did not play in his homeland, Liz made her mind up instead: she would coach the team herself.
At first she was told she would have to teach the players the game — a task she herself might have found intimidating, a move that did nothing to improve her chances of getting the job. After a few days of training the team, one player was spotted by the president of the local basketball association and her chances of being hired were not threatened anymore. Then came the Chinese competition, which she had not entered herself because her time was consumed by her studies. Despite the lack of competition, she was able to secure a spot in the tournament, coaching a team of players who had just left the US-based University of Maryland or who came from other universities for the experience: the team consisted of Americans or Chinese and three players from other countries.
Liz Mills grew up in the city of Charlotte, Texas, and her parents had both been teachers. In 2001, at the age of 19, she was offered a free place to study abroad in China for a semester. After her first language class where she was introduced to the language she wanted to study, she realized that in a few years she would have to decide on a field of study, where to study it, and the best way to prepare for it. She opted to study international law, so that was the field she chose — she then worked for four years in the United States as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant to bring money towards her studies.
When she returned to China after her graduation, she had to decide what field to choose, which was hard because she had no background in international law. Her mother suggested she study at the University of Beijing for one year anyway, since they were both in the university, and she got a full scholarship to attend. Her mother had always made up