Interview with the First and Only Female
NBA Scout, Bonnie-Jill Laflin
It may be a dream for a young basketball athlete to meet Bonnie-Jill Laflin, the first, and only woman NBA scout for the LA Lakers- or a any young female athlete who is looking for a shining example of women surpassing barriers in the world of sports. Anything Bonnie-Jill has set her mind to, she’s pretty much done. She grew up with a love for spectating and playing various sports. Her father was a season ticket holder for all the local teams and she would accompany him to the games. Brought up by an all-American family with strict family values, Bonnie-Jill learned to work hard, play hard, literally in a sense. This has been instrumental to her successes. Women For Action had an engaging conversation with Laflin. We had to divide the interview into two parts because we had so many questions! She informed us about what triggered a career in scouting for the NBA LA Lakers and how she obtained six championship rings. We even discussed a red carpet interview she did with Omarosa which spurred a short conversation about “strong women” types. Guess what she had to say?
Women For Action: Tell us a little about you, your background and what led to your path to becoming an NBA scout?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I grew up in California. I was a tomboy, but I was also very feminine because I was a child model who traveled all over the world. I did everything from pageants to dancing. Yet, I grew up riding horses because we had a horse ranch. Also, I played softball and basketball. In my senior year of high school, I cheered for the Golden State Warriors. I went on to cheer for the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. Cheerleading was a way for me to combine my love of dance and sports. I eventually received a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Texas and became a sports reporter. While covering the LA Lakers for the local CBS affiliate, I would have conversations with the owner, Dr. Jerry Buss with the game and the team. One day, Dr. Buss and the Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak explained to me they were thinking of trying a female scout to see if a different point of view would be helpful and asked if I'd like to try it. They knew how much I knew about sports and really wanted to get a female perspective. They observed me for a year and signed me to a five-year deal.
Women For Action: How long have you been doing that?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I’ve been scouting for the Lakers for 10 years. I was awarded 5 NBA championship rings as well. It was really nice to be awarded those.
Women For Action: Do you think your approach is different from male scouts?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I think women look at things differently than men. I still want the players I scout to have all the requisite skills and drive, but I also want to make sure they will fit into the culture of the organization.
Women For Action: What are some of the requisites? .And what makes someone a good fit?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: First of all, when you are a female working in a male dominated world, you are more so subjected to being under a microscope. Everything I do is scrutinized and looked at more than anyone else- I am kind of micromanaged. You know, there is always someone looking over your shoulders. A male can mess up and make an error, but if a female does, it’s magnified. When I'm scouting players, I am extremely detailed and conscious of everything I do. I am expected to make fully in depth decisions and to always know what I am talking about. These are things that I’ve noticed. I really don't think there is too much difference between a male and female scout because we are still looking for the same thing. It all boils down what the coach is looking for in offense or defense. Having said that, I am always searching for players with a high basketball IQ.
Women For Action: So basically it is highly predicated on what the coach is looking for?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Exactly. It’s what the coach is looking for at the time. They all have their different styles.
Women For Action: How do you feel about being in the position where you have to work twice as hard and everything you do is under the microscope because you're a woman in an non-traditional role?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: After having a conversation with me, people become fully aware that I am competent, knowledgeable and that I am credible. However, during those first two years as I scout, it was difficult because I was trying to prove myself. I have a solid work ethic and I feel I’ve shown an all-boys club that I belong there.
Women For Action: From your observation, do you think there will be more women scouts for the NBA anytime soon?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I believe so. I don't know if you knew that there is a first NBA female assistant coach, Becky Hammon who coaches for the San Antonio Spurs. Actually, the coach for that team, Gregg Popovich- if he doesn't think the person is qualified then he wouldn’t put them in a position. He really broke barriers hiring a woman. It doesn’t mean you are any less knowledgeable because you are female. As long as you can keep up with everyone else, you know your stuff and you make sure that you are on top of your game sort of speak, then there should be no reason why you shouldn’t be considered.
Women For Action: Going backward for a moment, according to your bio, you were awarded a Super bowl ring with the 49ers and five NBAchampionship rings. How did this come about?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: The team owners felt that I had made a substantial contribution to the teams' success, and so they awarded me championship rings. When I was with the 49ers, I was a cheerleader and the owner at the time, Eddie DeBartolo decided to give the cheerleaders rings for the first time. It was the first time, any owner had given cheerleaders rings so, it a big honor for us to receive those. People usually feel that cheerleaders aren't really part of the team. So it was nice to feel that sense of gratitude towards us. When I was with the LA Lakers, the owner Jerry Buss, felt that it was not just the players on the court that makes a championship team, but the front offense, all the different people, who contribute to that whole season. So again, it was a really huge honor to be able to have these keepsakes and treasures.
Women For Action: So you're on the right teams!
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Yeah call me the good luck charm. I was on the right teams.
Women For Action: Where do you have your rings stored?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I have them in a safe at my house. I wear them for big interviews. I just don't wear them on a daily basis because they are men championship rings. They’re huge. I have really small fingers so I don't wear them frequently. When I do decide to wear them, I may wear two rings at a time as a good conversation piece.
Women For Action: Do you think you will ever scout for the NFL?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: That's a whole different ballgame but I do love the NFL. Scouting requires a lot of travel and it gets old real quick! I don't think people realize with scouting that you are literally on the road all the time. You go from small schools to large universities, from planes to rental cars. It’s not glamorous at all. There is a lot of traveling, staying in different hotels, commuting by plane or car- it can get old. I still have a passion for the game. However, that’s the downside of scouting. The NFL is a whole different game that I really haven't explored. It really isn't on my radar right now.
Women For Action: Are you married and or do you have children? If so, how do you balance your schedules?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: No. I'm married to my career but I'm trying to get better with balancing my personal life. I have my fur babies so those are my children. It can be really difficult trying to do it all. Fortunately, I have a great support system of friends and family who I can count on for just about anything! But sleep seems to be the biggest casualty of my lifestyle.
Women For Action: Which game do you enjoy more? Basketball or football?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I am a fanatical baseball fan.
Women For Action: Really? I cannot sit through an entire baseball game!
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I watch everything. I am probably more fanatical with baseball than any other sport.
Women For Action: How did that come about?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: You know, my father was a season ticket holder to all the sports teams- the 49ers, the Warriors, and Giants. At a very young age, I accompanied him to all the games. I was one of those kids that were fascinated by sports. You know, not just hanging out at the games so I can get popcorn and candy and all that stuff, I was there to watch the players. Every morning I’d wake up and I would read the sports page. I just wanted to really embrace this world of sports. I was just 5 or 6 years old at the time. I used to ask my dad all these questions. So my dad and my mom knew that sports were going to be a part of my life.
Women For Action: How does your father feel about what you do now?
Bonnie-Jill Laflin: My parents are proud of me. I've always been a very ambitious go-getter. I'm goal-driven. So whatever I’ve set out to do, I achieve though I still have so much more I want to do. They are so proud that whatever I’ve put my mind to, I've been able to work hard and get to that point. As far as work -life balance, having a family and kids, is probably something I’d have to sacrifice because I put my career before anything else. I’m married to my career. A lot of my personal relationships have failed because I'm so independent and into my career. I’m working on balance this year.