How Brittni Donaldson Wants to Make her Mark in Atlanta as First Female Assistant Coach in Hawks History

Corey Knapp

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023

Every season, NBA teams celebrate firsts, milestones, and achievements, from players to coaches, on the court and off. For the 2023-24 Atlanta Hawks, perhaps the most significant first has already happened.

Brittni Donaldson, one of 11 coaches hired onto Quin Snyder’s staff, is the first female assistant coach in Hawks franchise history.

Donaldson arrives in Atlanta following assistant roles with the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, where she was part of their 2019 NBA Championship team. She is currently one of five female coaches in the NBA, and there have been 15 total in league history.

“Anytime there’s a first it’s worth acknowledging and celebrating – it’s exciting,” Donaldson says.


“Celebrating, first of all, the women who have come before me and paved the path so that I’ve been able to walk through the door and get an opportunity like this. Just have to think about those women and also celebrate the organization for prioritizing people with different experiences and backgrounds.”

When she broke into the NBA as an assistant, there had only been seven female coaches on staffs around the league. At each of her stops so far, she has been the ceiling breaker – the first in the room yes, but still the only. It’s progress that she recognizes and appreciates, while at the same time wanting to push it further.

“Next layer is ensuring women are able to be retained for a long period of time and that the environments that they’re hired into are safe and supportive and are allowed to let them thrive,” she says. “Avoiding the tokenism of ‘we have our token woman on staff, now we’re good.’ We definitely want to just keep pushing toward a mindset that’s: best person for the job.

"I’m excited to see the day where I get to work with another female alongside me on a coaching staff. I think it’s coming.”


Donaldson is from Sioux City, Iowa and played four seasons as a guard at Northern Iowa, where she holds the program record for 3-pointers made in a game with 8. Once injuries forced her to pivot away from a professional playing career, she used her degree in Statistics and Actuarial Science while working as a data analyst at STATS LLC before making the jump into the NBA. Her positions with the Raptors and Pistons focused heavily on analytics and player development, emphases which Donaldson will bring to Atlanta.

While that pairing may seem on the surface to be separate – player development could be viewed as a hands-on element on the court, while analytics might be seen as hands off, away from the court – Donaldson is clear that in her approach and experience:

"The two have never been a dichotomy; they’ve always very much been intertwined.”


One of her strengths is bridging that gap, whether she’s transferring that knowledge to a player, a fellow coach, or the whole team. She describes how that process can play out in multiple directions:

“So if I’m looking more from a data-driven lens, the things that I know about schematically what we’re trying to do, and the details of being on court with the player and understanding how they learn best, all of those things sort of inform what I’m going to care about when I look at the data. And then vice versa: If I see something interesting in the data like a trend or something that sticks out to me, now that can inform where we’re going to focus on the court.”

Additionally, Donaldson applies her player development philosophy broadly throughout a roster of players who are at different stages of their NBA careers, while still maintaining one-on-one specificity and connection. She emphasizes meeting the players where they are and determining how much to distill down the information she and the staff are teaching.

As a result, established players like Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, young players like AJ Griffin and Jalen Johnson, and rookies like Kobe Bufkin are all receiving information under the same umbrella. But it’s tailored to each of their specific levels and styles of learning so that it sticks and continues to help them get better.

“With a guy like Kobe, he doesn’t maybe know a lot of our terminology, he hasn’t seen these types of coverages before, whatever it is, we can’t just assume that he knows,” Donaldson says. “We have to be intentional as coaches with our language and how we present information and ensure that he’s learning. It takes a little bit of intentionality around learning where people are then meeting them where they are.”

Since being named to Snyder’s staff, Donaldson has spent the summer moving to Atlanta, working with players during workouts and mini camp, helping coach the team at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, and developing connections with other assistant coaches in what she calls “one of the most collaborative groups I’ve ever worked with.”

The only thing that can come close to matching her excitement for the upcoming season on the court is getting to know her new home off it.

“The little bit I’ve been able to explore the city, it’s clear that it’s rich in history and culture, and I’m really excited to experience more of that.”