Is NBA close to first female head coach? Hammon unsure

Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis did not hire Becky Hammon as the WNBA franchise’s new head coach for sentiment or stardom or PR savviness. He hired Hammon for the ready-now head coach she is. 

The WNBA’s gain became the NBA’s missed opportunity in December as Hammon was appointed successor to Bill Laimbeer, reportedly becoming the highest-paid head coach in the league in the process.

Hammon became the first full-time female assistant in NBA history with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, and cracked-without-shattering another glass ceiling in December 2020 when she stepped up as the first female acting head coach in league history by replacing Gregg Popovich following his ejection against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last offseason she spearheaded a pool of experienced female candidates linked to the seven head coaching vacancies at the time, subsequent questions over why Hammon and co. did not receive offers superseding ignorant questions over a female coach’s credentials.

Hammon was the longest-tenured member of Popovich’s staff, and had been touted as a possible successor. Davis, the Aces and the WNBA pounced on the experience the NBA had passed up.

“This is a step forward,” Hammon said. “Being the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces is a step forward and a step in the right direction for myself, for women’s basketball, and I think I can’t emphasise the importance of this opportunity that I have. I think this is more advantageous for growth.

“There’s something to being a head coach. I’ve sat in a lot of (NBA) head coaching interviews, and two things people always said: ‘You’ve only been in San Antonio, and you’ve never been a head coach.’ I can tell you right now (owner) Mark Davis met me, (team president) Nikki (Fargas) met me and said, ‘That’s a head coach right now.'”

Hammon, a six-time WNBA All-Star across 16 years with the New York Liberty and San Antonio Silver Stars, will remain with the Spurs for the rest of the season before taking over in Las Vegas full-time.

The 44-year-old has served as Spurs head coach in the NBA’s Summer League on three occasions, becoming the first female head coach to win a title in 2015.

Interest had been there prior to last year: the Indiana Pacers interviewed Hammon in 2020 before hiring the one-and-done Nate Bjorkgren, and in 2017 she was interviewed by the Milwaukee Bucks amid their search for a new general manager job.

New Orleans Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon, Duke Blue Devils women’s head coach Kara Lawson and South Carolina and Team USA women’s head coach Dawn Staley were all also linked to at least one of the head coaching openings alongside Hammon in the summer. The wait for a first female conductor in the NBA goes on, but for how long?

“You know, in some ways, like, I feel like I was very close, I was very close (to a NBA head coaching position),” said Hammon. “This is not really about the NBA or the WNBA, this was about me personally being ready to have a team and wanting to have a team and wanting to sit in that chair and then being presented with an opportunity to do so and, you know, NBA jobs are hard to get.

“In some ways I feel like the NBA maybe is close (to hiring a female head coach), in other ways I feel like they’re a long ways off from hiring. I don’t know when it could happen. What I know is the Aces have 100 per cent of my attention and my energies and I’m super-proud to be their head coach and lead this group of girls.”

A brave decision to step away from the NBA was also something of a no-brainer amid an increasingly-competitive fight for the responsibility of leading a team.

“This was the best spot for me and my family, an opportunity for me to sit in the big chair and be a head coach of a major professional sports league,” Hammon added.

“I feel like I’m ready to have my own team, and this is the organisation that made it very, very obvious they wanted me really, really bad. It’s always good to be wanted. It quickly became evident to me that Las Vegas was the place for me.”

Hammon is currently one of eight active female assistants in the league, none of which were hired to make history.

Source : Sky Sports