The San Antonio Spurs bolstered their coaching staff earlier this summer by hiring renowned international coach Ettore Messina. It was a groundbreaking move, as well as totally and completely Spurs-ian. Today, the Spurs made a similar move, hiring WNBA veteran Becky Hammon as an assistant coach.
Per the Spurs’ press release:
Hammon, who is currently in her 16th WNBA season, announced on July 23 that she would retire as a player at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All-Time in July of 2011, Hammon ranks seventh in WNBA history in points (with 5,809), fourth in assists (1,687) and sixth in games (445).
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. “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.”
While this is a pivotal event in the NBA — Hammon becomes the second female assistant coach in the history of the NBA after Lisa Boyer, and the first full-time female assistant coach — it’s not as if the Spurs did this simply for the PR. To be sure, they’re cognizant of the impact, but does anyone really think that this was, first and foremost, anything other than a basketball decision? The Spurs greatly favor continuity among their entire staff, and as Popovich said in the release, Hammon is familiar with the Spurs’ system. Thus, while it was a pioneering move, it was also one that made a great amount of basketball sense, always a chief concern of the Spurs.
Boyer, a volunteer assistant with the Cavaliers in 2000-01, was the NBA’s first female assistant coach. Progress for women with NBA coaching aspirations have been slow since then. There have been those knocking on the NBA’s door — Nancy Lieberman coached the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League, while Natalie Nakase, an assistant video coordinator for the Los Angeles Clippers, was an assistant coach for the Clippers during summer league — but Hammon is the first one to step through since Boyer in a full-time capacity. Hopefully, Hammon’s hiring is indicative of a greater progress for women in the NBA.