Becky Hammon, who is to retire from her 16-year WNBA playing career, has become the first woman to be appointed fulltime NBA assistant coach.
The 37-year-old who is still playing for the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA, will serve as assistant to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, the team confirmed on Tuesday.
This past season, Hammon spent a considerably amount of time attending the defending champions practices and film sessions, and Popovich seemed to be impressed with Hammon’s work.
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” the 2014 coach of the year said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
Despite the historic signing, Hammon is just the second woman to serve as assistant in the NBA.
Lisa Boyer was a pioneer after working as part-time assistant coach to then-Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Lucas during the 2001-02 NBA season, although Boyer was not paid by the Cavaliers and did not travel with the team, but did work with the players and coaches that season.
Throughout her playing career, Hammon built on a reputation for being a clever point-guard who appeared in six All-Star games.
Before joining the Silver Stars, Hammon played eight seasons for the New York Liberty and acquired Russian citizenship so she could represent the country at the Olympics (2008 and 2012).
This season, Hammon averaged 8.6 points and 4.2 assists in 27 games.
“I got to be perfectly honest,” she told the media, “It has never been about the woman thing. It has been about, hey she has got a great basketball mind, and we would be a great addition to our programme.”
“Pop told me earlier on, as cool as it would be to hire you, you have to be qualified, and I have to make sure you are qualified.”
The San Antonio Stars will host a Becky Hammon retirement ceremony on August 15 following the team’s game against the Minnesota Lynx.
When asked if a female athlete could play in the NBA, Hammon was clear. “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.”
“Nothing in my life has really ever been easy. I’ve always been someone who did it uphill. I’m up for challenges,” Hammon insisted.