Becky Hammon has been the buzz of the NBA since she coached the Spurs’ Summer League squad to a championship in Las Vegas. When she was hired as an assistant by the Spurs before last season, she became the first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history. Now, she’s getting buzz as a possible future head coach. In a rare radio interview with former NBA player-turned-KNBR radio host Tom Tolbert, Gregg Popovich elaborated on Hammon’s impact on the Spurs and his thought process for hiring her.
You can listen to the entire interview here, but here are Pop’s comments about Hammon:
It became huge when we hired her, and now it’s even bigger because of the Summer League situation. But we didn’t even think about that stuff. I hired her because she was in my coach’s meetings for an entire year because she was injured. She’s got opinions and solid notions about basketball. Obviously, she was a great player. As a point guard, 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. So that’s why we made her a full-time coach and gave her the opportunity to coach at Summer League. I don’t even look at it as, well, she’s the first female this and that and the other. She’s a coach, and she’s good at it. I think some people thought this was some kind of gimmick, or we were just trying to be cool. I’m glad she’s there. I respect her opinion, I enjoy the give-and-take with her, and when she went to the Summer League, that stuff’s about development. It gives coaches a chance to coach, but the real reason you’re there is to watch your new draft pick or a free agent that you might like develop and hopefully make your team. That was her purpose at Summer League, and she did a great job trying to make guys play the way we wanted them to play.
The reception to Hammon’s rise in the Spurs coaching ranks has been almost entirely positive, with the kind of backlash you’d expect for something like this confined to the fringes of the sports conversation. A big part of that is the amount of clout and respect Popovich has from all corners. If it was another organization with a less-than-stellar track record, it would be possible for someone who was committed to de-legitimizing the Hammon hire by calling it a gimmick. But Popovich isn’t letting anyone on his staff who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and everyone knows it. This has allowed people who otherwise might not take it as seriously as they should to accept that maybe, just maybe, a woman coaching an NBA team isn’t the craziest idea in the world.
Nobody knows when it will happen, but at some point, Hammon is going to get her shot at a head coaching job, and she will have earned it.