By Albert Lin
Becky Hammon and Gregg Popovich
The San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association announced the hiring of Becky Hammon as an assistant coach. Hammon will be the league’s first full-time female coach.
Lisa Boyer spent the 20012002 season as a Cleveland Cavaliers assistant, but she served on a volunteer basis and did not travel with the team. At the time, Boyer was a paid assistant with the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers, and she is now Associate Head Coach of the women’s team at the University of South Carolina. Additionally, Natalie Nakase, an Assistant Video Coordinator for the Los Angeles Clippers, served as an assistant last month on the team’s entry in the Las Vegas Summer League, but she is expected to return to her video duties for the regular season.
None of the United States’ three other major sports leaguesthe National Football League, Major League Baseball or the National Hockey Leaguehas had a female coach.
Hammon previously announced her plans to retire at the end of the current WNBA season, her 16th in the league. She was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All-Time in 2011 and ranks in the top 10 in league history in points, assists and games played. She has spent the last eight with the San Antonio Stars after playing for the New York Liberty for her first eight seasons.
In conversations with Stars Coach Dan Hughes in 2013 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, Hammon expressed interest in becoming a coach. So during the last NBA season (the NBA plays from October through June, the WNBA from May through September), she served as an unofficial coaching intern on the staff of Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, giving her a taste of life as a coach and allowing Popovich to essentially audition her for a role on his staff.
“I’m kind of just there, a fly on the wall soaking up how they run things over there in the film sessions,” Hammon told the San Antonio Express-News in February. “I get a lot out of their film sessions, just listening to the coaches go back and forth on what they think is happening on certain plays.
“Really, I’m just a sponge and building relationships with those guys on a different level. I get to see a side of them that not many get to see. That’s pretty cool.”
“She’s willing to learn,” Spurs star Tim Duncan told the Express-News. “Pop is willing to have anyone who has that perspective. She wants to come out here and work with us and learn as much as she can. She’s welcome to be here.”
The Spurs went on to win the NBA championship, their fifth under Popovich. When the team decided to move Sean Marks, one of five assistant coaches last season, back to the front office, Popovich didn’t have to look far to find Marks’ replacement.
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” said Popovich. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”
For a video about Hammon’s time as a Spurs coaching intern, see below: