The Spurs named Becky Hammon as assistant coach on Tuesday, and while technically she becomes the second female to hold that title in NBA history, in practice she’ll be the first with a real role in coaching a men’s professional team.
Lisa Boyer was part of John Lucas’ staff with the Cavaliers during the 2001-02 season, but didn’t travel with the team, and was paid by Cleveland’s WNBA franchise.
Hammon figures to have much more responsibility under Gregg Popovich, who had no interest in hiring Hammon simply to make history.
“Pop told me, early on, ‘As cool as it would be to hire you, you have to be qualified, and I have to make sure you’re qualified,’” Hammon said. “I think that’s the best way to go about it. It could be catastrophic if I wasn’t qualified, and then it sets the whole thing back.”
Despite all efforts to make Hammon’s hiring seem ordinary, there was no way to deny its significance.
“Obviously, the (historic first) is great, and it’s a tremendous honor, but I think the bigger point is I’m getting hired because I’m capable, because of my basketball IQ and stuff that they’ve seen in me personally,” Hammon said. “I know I’m just thrilled for the opportunity to coach these unbelievable athletes and, from what I’ve known, unbelievable people.”
Hammon is in the final season of a WNBA career that’s lasted 16 seasons, the last eight of which have been spent in San Antonio, where she’s been able to be around Popovich and the Spurs for many of those years.
There isn’t a team that’s proven to be more serious about the craft of basketball than the Spurs have over the past 17 seasons with Popovich running the show, so there’s no doubting that Hammon has the necessary skills to not only do the job she was hired for, but to excel at it, as well.