The former basketball star breaks major ground for women in sports with her new gig as a head coach in the NBA Summer League
The NBA’s biggest trailblazer, Becky Hammon, is making history yet again. Hammon was recently named head coach of the San Antonio Spurs Las Vegas Summer League team—an appointment that makes her the first female coach to lead an NBA team.
Hammon crashed through barriers last August when she became the first woman to hold a coaching position in the NBA during the regular season. After a 16-year WNBA career, including six All-Star appearances, Hammon was offered a full-time gig as an assistant coach with the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs by head coach Gregg Poppovich.
Lauded as a basketball brainiac by former coaches and teammates alike, Hammon has told press repeatedly that women should never be written off as lacking basketball IQ. “When it comes to things of the mind, like coaching, gameplanning, 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,” she told ESPN.
Throughout her athletic career, Hammon has earned a reputation as a mentally tough, gritty, and cerebral player. And this ethos didn't disappear once she stopped putting on the jersey; rather, she’s brought that same mentality to the sideline, causing players and coaches alike to take note of her serious potential.
The NBA Summer League is a training ground for rookie and younger players in need of development prior to the season, but it’s also an opportunity for up-and-coming coaches to try their hand at leading an NBA team, developing skills, and gaining experience in pressure-cooker scenarios. While her appointment is just for the Summer League, this revolutionary appointment and experience in the training ground stirs potential for her to transition from assistant to head coach in the regular season as well.
With two victories in Las Vegas already under her belt since the league started last week, Hammon hasn’t disappointed. But the girl also knows she has a great deal to learn still. "I feel like I’m just a flower that’s getting great roots, but far from blooming," she said to reporters earlier this week.
Record and girly metaphors aside, what’s most exciting is that Hammon has broken up the boys' club of the NBA. While she remains sheepish about her role as a pioneer or catalyst of change, she very much recognizes that this may open a door for other women and, at some point, even allow female leaders in the male-dominated NBA to be commonplace.
“Basketball is basketball, athletes are athletes, and great players want to be coached,” she said. “Now that this door has opened, maybe we’ll see more of it, and hopefully it will not be a news story.”