The San Antonio Spurs have a long history of breaking tradition and setting new standards. From pioneering the use of draft picks on European players to standing by long-tenured players and coaches, the NBA champions march to the beat of their own drum. Such was the case Tuesday, when the Spurs hired the first female assistant coach in NBA regular-season history.
Becky Hammon, a six-time WNBA All-Star and current player with the San Antonio Stars, will end her 16-year pro playing career at the end of this season. She will then jump into her historic regular-season position on the Spurs bench with the rest of the assistant coaches.
But when she speaks up from the huddle to share her thoughts with Spurs head coach Greg Poppovich, it won’t be the first time Hammon has given him counsel.
Hammon first interacted with the Spurs coaching staff after an injury kept her from the Stars’ playing rotation. Invited by Poppovich to watch film with him and the rest of the Spurs assistant coaches, Hammon was asked occasionally to share her thoughts about how to address certain game situations. Over time the feedback loop became more regular, giving Poppovich and the Spurs organization confidence in Hammond’s coaching abilities.
And it was those abilities, not the Spurs’ desire to make history hiring the first female assistant coach in NBA history, that got Hammond the job.
Hammon will become the first full-time, regular-season female assistant coach in the NBA. It’s not the first time a woman has roamed the sidelines. Lisa Boyer, the coach of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, had a brief stint in 2001-2002 on the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff. Hammon’s position is, however, the first full-time regular-season assistant coaching position on an NBA team.
Poppovich in May indicated he would be open to hiring a full-time female assistant coach. Asked by the Associated Press whether his film-session invitations to Hammond were indicative of his confidence in a woman being hired as an NBA coach, Poppovich said “I don’t see why not. There shouldn’t be any limitations. It’s about talent and the ability to do things. It’s not about what your sex is or your race or anything else.”
He reinforced those comments Tuesday, saying “”Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the rest of the Spurs team will likely value Hammon coaching from her position as an accomplished player. Hammon is the San Antonio Stars’ all-time leader in assists (1,112) and three-pointers (493), and she ranks second in points scored (3,442) and games played (218).