San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a Hall of Famer, a five-time NBA champion, and a guy who is smart enough to know talent when he sees it. The guy knows a thing or two about NBA basketball. That’s why he hired 6-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon to his bench.
Pop stands behind Hammon, and so the Spurs coach responded accordingly when asked about radio host Mike Francesa’s comments about Hammon never becoming a head coach in the NBA.
“I don’t pay any attention to it because it’s nonsense,” Popovich said.
In case you are out of the loop, Francesa, a New York sports radio host at WFAN, answered a caller question earlier in March about Hammon’s chances at becoming a head coach.
“No shot. I mean, the odds are a million to one,” said Francesa. “And if it wasn’t for Gregg — if it wasn’t the most the most dominant coach in the league doing that, I’m not sure anyone else would even hire a woman right now.”
That’s of course missing the point that Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman is also an assistant coach for an NBA team. She sits on the Sacramento Kings bench and has since 2015.
The NBA is one of the most forward-thinking leagues, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to a woman to coach an NBA team, including Hammon. To Francesa’s point, there’s no precedent for a female head coach in the NBA, but there wasn’t one before Hammon and Lieberman became full-time assistant coaches, either.
If you’ve ever spent time around NBA coaches before, it’s a job that takes a special type of personality and command of attention of other people. If Hammon or Lieberman or anyone else wasn’t making the cut as an assistant, they would not remain on an NBA bench. But they do, so what does that tell you?
Popovich said of Hammon in 2015 that, “She’s a leader, she’s fiery, she’s got intelligence, and our guys just respected the heck out of her, so she’s coaching with us, she’s running drills. That’s why we made her a full-time coach.”
That sentiment has been echoed by Spurs GM R.C. Buford, who even said Hammon has received head coaching offers from men’s college basketball teams while she’s been with San Antonio. That was in 2016.
By most accounts, Becky Hammon isn’t going anywhere but up. The opinions of a sports radio jockey outside the San Antonio market, who has no intimate knowledge of Hammon’s personality, coaching style, or reputation within the organization, and who once interviewed George Karl thinking he was Jerry Sloan, is sort of hard to take seriously given context.
Meanwhile, a writer at the Wall Street Journal has offered a public bet of $1,000 — going to charity of course — to Francesa if Hammon becomes an NBA head coach in the next five years.
Mark your calendars.