A lot of people believe Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, already a pioneer in the profession, is overdue as the NBA’s first female head coach. Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen reportedly supported Hammon for their opening. Hammon was considered a finalist.
But Portland hired Chauncey Billups, not Hammon.
Hammon impressed Portland officials and was generally liked among Blazers staffers, sources said. But when Portland reached out for intel from San Antonio figures, the background on Hammon was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities. That sentiment has been echoed by sources around the league. Blazers personnel then cast doubt that Hammon was the candidate to steer the ship through such delicate waters with Lillard.
Damian Lillard was reportedly antsy before Portland chose Billups. (The Trail Blazers hiring Billups created another complication with Lillard.) The best way Portland can keep Lillard happy: Winning. That means hiring the best coach possible.
Was that Hammon?
“We obviously admire Becky. She did a great job. Making it as far as the owner in the process isn’t easy. She made it all the way to the ownership level, which is an endorsement,” Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey said during the press conference introducing Billups as the Portland coach
It’s extremely difficult to evaluate assistant coaches from afar. So much of their work is done behind the scenes.
Anonymous assessments should always be heavily scrutinized. There’s a particular concern criticism of Hammon is rooted in sexism. The Trail Blazers might also be looking to defend their controversial hire. Hammon has gotten rave on-the-record reviews, and the Spurs continue to promote her.
But, again, it’s extremely difficult to evaluate assistant coaches from afar. These accounts should be included with everything else we know about Hammon.
Women deserve more opportunities in NBA coaching than they’ve gotten. There is no doubt about that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Trail Blazers were the right fit for Hammon.