An island of success and strangeness is what some might describe the San Antonio Spurs, and by hiring Becky Hammon to be the first full-time, fully paid female assistant on an NBA team, the franchise that has been steered perfectly by Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford for nearly two decades took another step to distance themselves from the rest of the league.
In the WNBA, Hammon has been playing for the San Antonio Stars since 2007, and will be retiring at the end of the season. She’s been involved with some of the Spurs players in All-Star events, and was involved with the team’s coaching last season, sitting behind the bench during home games. This year, she’ll be taking it to the next step, and will be breaking another barrier on the most unique and successful organization in the NBA.
No one is doubting her credentials. Hammon has been a WNBA player since 1999, playing 16 years in the league. She is a six-time WNBA All-Star and was voted as one of the top 15 players in the league of all-time. She played in the Olympics for Russia, finishing with a Bronze medal in 2008.
But what about Lisa Boyer? During the 2001-2002 season, John Lucas hired her to be part of the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff. However, she wasn’t on the payroll, didn’t sit on the bench during games and did not travel with the team. Hammon is in a completely different capacity, but no one is doubting that Popovich and co. did this for professional reasons only, instead of picking her just because she’s a woman.
As far as women coaching men, it’s really silly. People ask me all the time, will there ever be a woman player in the NBA? To be honest, no. There are differences. The guys are too big, too strong and that’s just the way it is. But when it comes to things of the mind, things like coaching, game-planning, coming up with offensive and defensive schemes, there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t be in the mix and shouldn’t be in the mix.
Obviously, this isn’t just about Hammon getting a chance to coach in the NBA. This is about other women who have always seen themselves as good enough and capable to be part of the men’s game in the coaching level. Some who have been involved in the D-League or other “minor” levels. Their goal has always been to coach in the NBA. A head coach? Maybe we’re still far away from that moment, but this decision by the San Antonio Spurs will hopefully be more than just a symbol, but an actual road paving act that launches the NBA into a different era eventually.