Becky Hammon Rumors

Could Pop envision Hammon eventually becoming a head coach? “I don’t think about expectations or where anybody is going to go,’’ Popovich said. “I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing. I’m still wondering what I’m doing here. I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why I should continue to be here and here I am. “So I’m not going to try and figure out what’s going to happen to somebody else in their life. I mean all of us have taken different turns. We’re going this way and then all of a sudden we’re going that way. It’ll be the same for her. “Who knows? Maybe she’ll become a doctor. I don’t know.’’ Or maybe a newspaper reporter? “God forbid.’’
Popovich wasn’t trying to make a social statement with the hiring. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman,” he said. “It’s the same positon it’s the same pick-and-roll, it’s the same defenses and all that sort of thing. She’s very confident in the knowledge that she has and the way she approaches the game from a point-guard position. It’s been good to have her. It’s another prospective that we didn’t have before.”
Hammon, a six-time WNBA All-Star, wasn’t certain she would get into coaching until Popovich made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. It was a chance to work with the five-time champions and one of the league’s most successful coaches. “It’s pretty cool that Pop thought enough of my mind to hire me and didn’t care what gender I was,” Hammon said. “It was that I was the right person for the job. At the end of the day that’s all anybody wants is an opportunity that’s fair.”
After years of fighting her way into unlikely positions, Hammon is quick to brush off the idea that women have different coaching sensibilities, or that her gender is an issue. Despite the physical differences between the sexes, “skill-wise, there are some women who can compete with the guys: shooting, dribbling, passing, and the IQ stuff,” she says. And on the court and in the locker room with the Spurs, she adds, “You’re getting to know these guys as people, and as players. You have to develop a rapport. They give me a lot of respect.” Still, the gravity of her position is starting to sink in. “It’s 2015, and I’m the first female coach in any of the major sports,” she says, laughing. “That’s ridiculous!”
But there were also plenty of other positive moments, most notably the signing of a massive new media deal that will triple the NBA’s revenue. Then there was the Spurs’ hiring of Becky Hammon as the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history, a moment Silver singled out in a video interview with USA Today. “I think the hiring of Becky Hammon is a wonderful step for the league,” Silver said. “The fact it was done by the NBA champions makes it all that much more special, and done by R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich for basketball reasons. Becky Hammon is someone I’ve known for a long time, when she was a WNBA player.
Becky Hammon: The biggest thing I love about basketball is something that I still carry with me, since being a child, and it’s just the ability to dream. Michael Jordan was probably the first basketball player that I can remember made me want to dream. The excitement, the passion that he played with—I felt I had that fire in me, too. I’ve loved basketball my entire life and it’s loved me back very well, so it’s been a good relationship.
Q. What’s been the toughest challenge in your career, one that taught you some personal lesson? A. One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to play for Russia in the Olympics. It was always my dream, obviously, to play in the Olympics for the USA. But even coming off my best year in the WNBA, I didn’t get a chance to be on USA basketball. I knew I would be judged very harshly for playing for Russia, and I went through all that turmoil—wrestling to do it, not to do it—hoping the USA squad would come back around and give me a legitimate chance to make the team. All these things were swirling inside me.
Q. You moved from the WNBA to the NBA, do you have a new perspective on the difference in salaries between the two? A. It’s interesting, you know, because a pick and roll is a pick and roll. And a good leader is a good leader, whether female or male. There are some huge salary discrepancies, and there’s a huge area for growth on the women’s side. That won’t come, though, if people don’t get out and support it. The biggest thing for me is just changing the cultural idea that women can’t be entertaining as professional athletes. A guy like LeBron James can come up to me and say, “I appreciate the way you play the game.” The guys in the NBA watch the WNBA all the time. But that appreciation for the hard work that women have been putting in needs to start paying off, so that the discrepancies become less and less. It’s a big difference, and it’s very shocking. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the basketball itself—that’s the funny thing.
After 16 years in the pros, first with the New York Liberty, then the San Antonio Stars, Hammon’s bona fides are well established. “She impressed me,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Because of her size. She wasn’t the fastest. You could tell she could find a way to become important. Even if she wasn’t shooting great one day, but she was smart, one step ahead. The type of player that usually becomes coaches.”
Popovich, the ultimate no-nonsense coach, did not set out to make a statement, only to bolster his staff. “Honestly, I didn’t realize it was gonna be this big of a deal,” he said. “People kind of went crazy, like we’ve saved the world from fascism or something,” he added, chuckling. “It was much more important to reward her—for who she is, what she’s done and what I believe she can do, than worry about the reaction of people.”
Hammon’s mastery of Xs and Os impressed the Spurs organization. If you give it 10 seconds of thought, it’s not a heavy lift; do women run a pin-down any differently than men? But no one pulled the trigger until now. “I think it’s great,” said Theresa Grentz, the former University of Illinois and Rutgers coach. She, along with her Immaculata University teammates that won AIAW titles from 1972-74, were enshrined in Springfield last week. “I salute Popovich and the Spurs for doing what they’re doing,” Grentz said. “Now, she has to step it up, and she will. And I think that’s going to open up some doors.”
Although men have coached women’s teams for decades, there has been an unhealthy line separating women’s coaches and men’s teams. Capable women’s coaches have either stayed in the women’s game by choice or by force. The NBA may some day be the first major sport to embrace a female head coach, and Hammon’s hire is a significant step in that direction. “I think this happens to be a situation where they have been observing me for years playing down here,” Hammon said. “They decided this can work. There’s a lot of things that go into it besides ‘This would be a cool idea.’ It’s got to fit and it’s got to be the right fit and it just so happens that it is down here — and the environment they create. “It is big and I definitely hope little girls can say, ‘Hey look people can do whatever they put their mind to.’ It’s exciting and honestly it’s too early to tell what kind of [future] impact it is going to have.”
Indeed, he already considered Hammon an unofficial member of the staff after she spent last season observing the Spurs, sitting in on games, practices and meetings and chipping in with her input when asked. Said Green: It wasn’t a big shock to me, being that she was with us the previous year. She’s been around the organization for some years now, but she’s was with us pretty much full-on last year. I don’t think things will change much. We’re used to being around her, she’s a coach, we respect her. It will be an adjustment, but not much of one. I think we have the guys who are very professional enough to handle it.