NBA Underestimates Becky Hammon Asked WNBA Head Coaching Move

  • For years, Becky Hammon was expected to become the first female head coach in major professional men’s sports.
  • But after NBA franchises questioned her abilities, she took her talents where everyone knows her worth.
  • The assistant to the San Antonio Spurs goes to Las Vegas to become the head coach of the WNBA’s Aces.

Becky Hammon is convinced that she is ready to lead her own team, and that she is ready to do it now.

So, with NBA franchises constantly failing to recognize her aptitude and willingness for a job as a head coach, she decided to use her talents where everyone knows her worth. After eight years as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, the six-time WNBA All-Star is leaving men’s basketball to become the head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Becky Hammon is on the side of an NBA game.

hammon.

Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images


“This wasn’t really about the NBA or the WNBA,” Hammon said. “This was about me personally being ready to have a team and wanting to have a team and being in that chair and then having the opportunity to do that.”

“In some ways, I feel like the NBA might be close. In other ways, I feel like they’re still a long way from hiring. [a woman head coach]she added. ‘I don’t know when it could happen. What I know is that the Aces have 100 percent of my attention.”

Although Hammon — long considered the obvious candidate to become the first female head coach in NBA history — admitted she previously “had no intention of leaving the NBA right now,” the Aces gave her an offer too good to refuse: almost complete control of her own team.

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon speaks with Patty Mills.

Hammon (left) coaches former Spurs guard Patty Mills.

AP Photo/Eric Gay


“A lot has gone into this decision. A lot of sleepless nights, to be honest,” Hammon said. “… [But] I feel like I’m ready to have my own team. And this is the organization that made it very, very clear that they wanted me very, very much. And so it’s always good to be wanted.”

So on New Year’s Eve, Las Vegas announced that both sides had agreed on a historic five-year deal that will make Hammon the highest paid coach in the league. The retired security guard said she “never locked the door”. [returning to] the WNBA because…that’s where I come from.”

And taking the helm of this particular team after spending the second half of her WNBA career with the San Antonio Stars — the franchise that later moved to Sin City and renamed the Aces — is “poetic,” Hammon says.

Becky Hammon

Hammon (right) drives against Candace Parker during a game between the San Antonio Stars and Los Angeles Sparks.

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas


Still, there’s little doubt that the NBA’s failure to hire Hammon as head coach played a part in her move to the W. Despite several rounds of interviews with multiple franchises, the right-hand man of arguably the greatest coach in history of the NBA in Spurs coach Gregg Popovich never got her chance.

“There’s something about being a head coach,” Hammon said. “You know, I was in a lot [NBA] head coaching interviews, and [there are] two things people always said: you’ve only been to San Antonio and you’ve never been a head coach.”

Popovich has an extensive coaching tree that has branched out across the NBA and beyond. At least five former San Antonio assistants and players under the surefire Hall of Famer became head coaches with no head coaching experience, including Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka, former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and former Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn.

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Hammon (right) coaches alongside legendary San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich.

Kelley L Cox-US TODAY Sports


Of that group, both Budenholzer and Vaughn had no professional coaching experience outside of their time with the Spurs organization — 17 years and two years, respectively — before graduating to an NBA head coach position. Kerr had no professional coaching experience before taking the helm at Golden State.

Of the 30 current NBA head coaches, eight were hired for their first head coaching appearances after only one previous NBA assistant coaching experience or no coaching experience at all. Hammon was not given that same consideration.

“Well I can tell you now, [Aces owner] Mark Davis with me, [franchise President] Nikki [Fargas] met me and said, ‘that’s a head coach now. That’s a head coach now. We’re going after her. She’s the person,” Hammon said. “And that’s why they got me.”

Becky Hammon celebrates with her sons as the Las Vegas Aces pull back her jersey.

Hammon and her sons celebrate the retirement of the Las Vegas Aces in September.

WNBA / Las Vegas Aces


Just months before returning to the WNBA, Hammon reached the final round of interviews for the Portland Trail Blazers’ open coaching appearance. Jody Allen – the franchise president – reportedly believed Hammon was the best option to become the next head coach of her team. But the Trail Blazers ultimately chose Chauncey Billups, a former NBA player with just one season of assistant coaching experience and a sexual assault charge in his past.

That decision was fueled by then-general manager Neil Olshey, who has a close personal relationship with the five-time NBA All-Star and preferred him for the job. And to justify that choice, Olshey said that despite interviewing “people who had a larger body of work, more things we could reference,” he placed more emphasis on hiring someone with “natural gravitas, leadership skills, [and]… upside down.”

Hammon can read between the lines.

Becky Hammon.

hammon.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


“Over the course of my career…I’ve been someone who was passed over because I didn’t look good — I wasn’t tall enough, I wasn’t athletic enough, I wasn’t fast enough,” Hammon said Monday. “I didn’t look like that, so I was passed.”

“And so what I’d really like is to get to the point where people are hired based on what they bring with them — their minds, what’s between their ears, and what’s in here,” she continued, pointing to her heart. . “…But I’ve been hit so many times that you just get up again. You don’t know any different. It’s just a habit.”

“You just keep getting back up because, and I’m not saying life doesn’t hit everyone, but how we react to it is what’s going to define us in the end, not the hit.”

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