On Tuesday, the San Antonio Spurs, who’s known as one of the most progressive franchises in the NBA, announced that WNBA star Becky Hammon has been hired as an assistant coach.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 5, 2014
Hammon, who retires from the WNBA this year after 16 seasons, the last eight of which she spent with the San Antonio Stars, is a six-time WNBA All-Star and was named as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All-Time in July 2011. She ranks seventh in the league’s history in points (5,809), fourth in assists (1,687), and sixth in games (445). She has the credentials that deserves respect in the NBA.
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, according to NBA.com. “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.”
Lisa Boyer became the first female on an NBA sideline during the 2001-02 season, she assisted John Lucas‘ Cleveland Cavaliers as a “volunteer assistant.”
The WNBA’s San Antonio Stars head coach Dan Hughes was the one who recommended Hammon to Popovich and is recognized as the person responsible for nurturing her interest in coaching. When asked, this past May, whether women could coach men, Popovich told ESPN,
“I don’t see why not. There shouldn’t be any limitations. It’s about talent and the ability to do things. It’s not about what your sex is or your race or anything else.”
Finding a female coach in a professional league—let alone a male league—is hard to do: tennis star Andy Murray hired Amélie Mauresmo in advance of Wimbledon and French soccer team Clermont Foot made headlines when they named Helena Costa France’s first professional female football coach for a male team.
This isn’t the first time a female took a prominent position in the NBA. Violet Palmer became an NBA referee in 1997 and was the first female official to reach the highest competitive tier in a major U.S. professional sport. Just last week the National Basketball Players Association, the labor union that represents basketball players in the NBA, hired Washington lawyer Michele Roberts as executive director. Roberts became the first woman to lead a major sports league union.
Hammon will likely face many challenges as she continues to break ground for females in the NBA, but no doubt she’s ready to take them on. She told ESPN in May,
“I do think it’s time that some of those barriers do come down…I think it’s silly on a certain level. If you know and understand basketball, you know and understand basketball, period.”