The NBA is a male-dominated world, and that hasn’t changed much over the nearly 80-year history of the league. From the front offices to the coaches to the players, every member of every rung has largely been the same gender for decades.
But one trailblazer is here to change that.
Becky Hammon, who’s served as an assistant coach on the San Antonio Spurs‘ staff for the last seven years, is aiming to become the first female head coach in NBA history — and she’s going to get there, too. Hammon isn’t just going to accept the first offer that falls in her lap, though. In a recent interview, she firmly told NBA front offices to hire her because she’s the best person for the job, not because it would be a good PR move for the franchise.
Becky Hammon wants to be the first female head coach in NBA history
It’s not easy to be a woman in a man’s sport. Just ask the plethora of women who have attempted to break into the NBA as a coach, staffer, adviser, or even referee in the last 75 years. Many have failed over the years, but Hammon wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
In 2014, Hammon accomplished what no other female before her had been able to: become a full-time assistant coach for an NBA team. The former WNBA star caught Gregg Popovich’s eye after her playing career came to an end, and he took a chance on her by adding her to his Spurs staff.
After seven seasons with the Spurs, Hammon is starting to field serious interest from teams around the league to become their head coach. She interviewed with the Orlando Magic and the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason for their respective openings, but she was eventually passed on in favor of other candidates.
It’s only a matter of time until Hammon is running her own team.
Hammon refuses to be a pawn in someone else’s game
Hammon’s end goal has always been to become the first woman to take over an NBA team, but she doesn’t see herself as a female assistant coach or a female head coaching candidate. She sees herself simply as an accomplished coach, a qualified candidate, and a respected peer in the NBA circle.
If a team wants to hire her because she’s the best candidate for the job, great. But if a team just wants to make headlines and generate positive buzz with a historic hire, that’s not going to fly with Hammon.
“Please don’t hire me to check a box. That’s the worst thing you can do for me,” Hammon said in a phone interview with Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press this week. “Hire me because of my skill sets and coaching, who am I as a person. Hire me for those.”
Hammon hopes there comes a day when women in the NBA can be applauded for their success, not their gender.
“It’s huge and important. It’s something that can’t be [checking] the box,” she said. “You have to hire the best person. Half the world’s population hasn’t been tapped for their mind and ability and skill sets in the sports world. It’s something that needs to change.”
Hammon could be the head coach of your favorite NBA team soon
For Hammon, it’s a matter of when — not if — she’ll become the head coach of an NBA team. This is a woman who led the Spurs to a Summer League title in 2015 when she was given the reigns to the team. She made it to the final round of interviews for the Blazers job this offseason before the team decided on Chauncey Billups.
Her time is coming. Just ask future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol.
“I’ve played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. And I’m telling you, Becky Hammon can coach,” Gasol wrote in an open letter for The Players’ Tribune in 2018. “I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches.
“I’m saying Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”
She can, and she will.