Let’s get this out of the way first. There are two modern views of ground breaking events for people of different races, sex or sexual orientations and how we should react to such events.
The first – in my opinion a very idealistic view – is one in which we say, “who cares.” That’s not to say it isn’t impressive, but to acknowledge that it is a big deal is to acknowledge that this group needs to be held up instead of being worthwhile on their own. This assumes that the general people of the world are rational and thoughtful in a way that I can never accept. Yes, I’m a bit of a pessimist.
The second view is that these situations should be celebrated, within reason of course. I don’t believe that we should celebrate every time a woman gets hired for a position in sports forevermore. But, the first? Yes, I think the first notable situations should be noted, talked about, and celebrated.
It is only fitting then that the San Antonio Spurs are the ones to hire Becky Hammon as just the second female assistant coach in the NBA’s storied history. This is the team that doesn’t care about the stereotypical, high-flying style. The team that has been labelled as the most boring team in basketball, but is one of the greatest teams to watch pass the ball. They’ll now have assistant coaches in former European coaching star, Ettore Messina and soon-to-be former WNBA star, Hammon.
Is Hammon the first ever female assistant coach? No. That feat was accomplished in 2001-02 by Lisa Boyer.
CORRECTION: Becky Hammon is 2nd woman to join an NBA coaching staff. Lisa Boyer was an assistant for Cavs in 2001-02. http://t.co/0Zw769kspl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 5, 2014
Former point guards have become the coach de jure of recent years. Jason Kidd, Derek Fisher and Jacque Vaughn are all young head coaches that were point guards in their playing days; Hammon now joins them in the ranks of former point guards turned NBA coaches (though she is an assistant of course).
After playing at Colorado State, the undrafted rookie Hammon signed with the New York Liberty in the WNBA before joining the San Antonio Stars in 2007. Hammon has been named an All-Star six times in her storied WNBA career and will now attempt to pass on her knowledge of the game to the Spurs players from a seat next to the bench.
Few endorsements would matter more to a potential coach than those of Gregg Popovich.1
“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.”
After serving as a coaching intern during the 2012-13 season, Hammon will now be paid for her expertise and will fight with Messina for the right to take over for Pop some day. Hyperbolic, I know, but not an impossible situation int he coming years.
In the coming days, weeks and hopefully years2 there will be questions about Hammon’s basketball IQ, her ability to lead, and the level of respect that NBA players will give her.
One thing is for sure, there are few situations she could have come into on a more level playing field than the Spurs. The players are mature veterans – even the young players – and they are lead by a no-nonsense head coach with respect in every circle around the league. There are situations that Hammon could have gone into that may have been toxic or that lack a true opportunity. She could have been hired as a side show somewhere. Not in San Antonio. Not with R.C. Buford. Not with Pop.
To paraphrase the great Bill Russell,3 I only have one question; can she coach?
Enjoy her introductory press conference below.