Spurs hire Becky Hammon, continue to redefine NBA history
The San Antonio Spurs announced Tuesday the hiring of soon-to-be retired Silver Star Becky Hammon, making her the first female to be a full-time assistant coach in NBA history. It’s been anything but a “let’s just relax” sort of offseason for the defending champs, as a refortification of Gregg Popovich’s bench — both from a player and coach perspective — has left the team and organization deeper than it’s ever been.
¹It’s been reported that Lisa Boyer was the first female assistant in the NBA for John Lucas’ Cavs in the early 2000s, but it appears she volunteered her services. This is still a giant stepping stone, and perhaps led to Hammon’s signing; we’re only differentiating between the two roles for the sake of clarity. Additionally, the Clippers had a female assistant, Natalie Nakase, at the Summer League in Las Vegas in July. Progress is a good thing.
This from Popovich in a press release from the team: “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.”
Quietly, Hammon has had a behind-the-bench role with the Spurs as a Popovich protégé for some time now and has built a relationship and defined role among players and the rest of the staff. San Antonio has almost always sought to develop coaches from within, rather than hiring from the outside, but this time they did so while also managing to blast through yet another inane barrier in the sports world.
In addition to hiring a woman to take a prominent role on the bench, Popovich also brought in international coaching legend Ettore Messina earlier in the offseason, this after he raised the question last season why coaches like Messina on the global stage had yet to receive substantial job offers to coach in the NBA. Now Pop is done asking the questions, and is not only keeping the Spurs ahead of the curve, but he’s allowing them to form it themselves.
Just one full season removed from the loss of Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer, two longtime and highly trusted assistants, Popovich has managed to build a coaching trust that includes Jim Boylen, Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina, and Becky Hammon, to go along with two of the league’s priemer development gurus in Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier.
Popovich signed a multiyear extension recently after undergoing hip surgery following the Finals, but if I had to guess, he did so in an effort to rid himself of the media’s constant inquiries of his retirement date. I kid, of course (kind of), but it’s clear the organization is acting with both the present and future in mind.
There simply isn’t a better franchise in all of sports right now, and it just continues to get richer.