The San Antonio Spurs are one of the most fundamentally sound and successful teams in all of professional sports. It’s no surprise then that Tuesday they became the first NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL team to hire a female to their coaching staff.
Sixteen-year WNBA veteran and six-time all-star Becky Hammon, 37, was hired on as an assistant coach under five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich, who of course coached the Spurs to the 2014 title.
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. 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.” – Popovich in a statement
South Carolina women’s basketball coach Lisa Boyer was an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001, but she wasn’t paid by the team nor did she travel to away games.
Hammon plans on retiring from basketball after this season with the WNBA. Talk about planning for the future. Hammon spent time attending Spurs practices and working with the team during their 2013-14 season.
“She’s been perfect,” Popovich said then. “She knows when to talk, and she knows when to shut up. That’s as simple as you can put it, and a lot of people don’t figure that out. … She knows how to do it, and our players really respond to her. She’s just a natural.” – Popovich to Inside Stuff
Even though Donald Sterling’s racist comments made headlines in late April and the NBA subsequently fined him $2.5 million and banned him from the league for life, the league is making progressive jumps.
Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in professional sports when he was signed by the Brooklyn Nets in February. Last week, Violet Palmer, the NBA’s first female referee, announced that she is gay. In huge news, the NBA Players Association elected Michele Roberts as its executive director, which makes her the first woman in charge of a major U.S. sports union.
If Hammon’s time in the NBA is half as successful as her time playing in the WNBA was, then her experience will open more doors for women in coaching across all professional sports, men’s or women’s.
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