San Antonio PG Becky Hammon continues to break barriers. On Tuesday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich named her to his staff as an assistant coach. Terms weren’t released but the move makes Hammon the second woman to serve as a coach during the regular-season in the history of the NBA. She’ll make the transition after retiring from a 16-year playing career in the WNBA this summer.
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Popovich said in a released statement. “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.”
Lisa Boyer, who’s currently an associate head women’s basketball coach at South Carolina, was the first woman to land a position on a NBA bench when she worked for John Lucas’ staff with the Cleveland Cavaliers the 2001-02 NBA season.
Hammon and I spoke on Sunday about women joining the NBA ranks for a weekly “WNBA Talk” feature I run in the newspaper. Former UCLA star Natalie Nakase was named a Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach for the two-week Summer League in July and Storm associate head coach Jenny Boucek has worked with the Sonics as a scout in the past. But none had that coveted title “assistant coach” in the NBA in over a decade.
“It’s close,” Hammon said Sunday before the Stars lost to the Storm at KeyArena. Hmm, perhaps being coy about her own job acceptance?
Hammon, 37, will hold a press conference in San Antonio on Tuesday about the historic hiring.
“It’s natural,” Hammon said of a woman coaching men just as men coach women. “Think about it, there’s women surgeons, there’s women in every other field. Now, a female player in the NBA? I don’t think that will ever happen and that’s no knock. It’s just they’re too big, too strong, too fast, there’s a physical ailment there (in the NBA).
“But things of the mind? I don’t see any reason why a woman wouldn’t be able to coach men.”
Hammon was a volunteer coach of sorts for the Spurs during its championship season, quitting the position in time to finish rehab from a torn ACL and join WNBA training camp in May. Popovich allowed her in the locker room, film room, and Spurs practices.
“Pop is arguably the best NBA coach in the history of the NBA,” Hammon said. “Being able to learn from him in any capacity is going to serve me well down the road.”
Here’s some reaction on Twitter to Hammon’s hiring:
@BeckyHammon Spurs hire Hammon as assistant NBA Coach! Powerful statement by Popovich! Breakthrough for women in NBA! Congrats Becky!
— Lin Dunn (@Coach_Dunn) August 5, 2014
— Kristen Ledlow (@KristenLedlow) August 5, 2014
Quite a groundbreaking staff of assistant coaches Pop has assembled for next season with the hires of Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 5, 2014
— Jayne Appel (@jayneappel) August 5, 2014
— San Antonio Stars (@SAStars) August 5, 2014
Spurs have named retiring WNBA star Becky Hammon an assistant coach. The Spurs, once again, being the Spurs. A step ahead.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) August 5, 2014
Even MORE impressed with the @spurs….True Leaders…
— Jenny Boucek (@jboucek) August 5, 2014
Congrats to Becky Hammon and the Spurs. She is going to be a terrific coach and will work for/learn from one of the best ever. Kudos, Pop.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) August 5, 2014