The San Antonio Spurs in the NBA are what the New England Patriots are in the NFL. An organization that has an incredible development system, sustained success, and exceptional coaching staff. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been the group’s longtime leader, having his share of success and ejections during his tenure.
In Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Popovich’s temper got the best of him. He was ejected from the game late in the second quarter. Becky Hammon was the replacement coach, making NBA history thanks to Popovich’s ejection.
Becky Hammon’s basketball career
Being a WNBA star is Becky Hammon’s claim to fame. She played 16 seasons in the WNBA, playing for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Silver Stars. Hammon was a six-time All-Star and averaged 13 points per game for her career. Her success and experience in the WNBA allowed her to pursue a coaching career in the NBA.
Her being a part of the Silver Stars organization gave her the opportunity to interact with the Spurs’ coaching staff. When she suffered an ACL tear in 2015, she spent even more time with San Antonio, going to film sessions and attending practices per ESPN. The familiarity and confidence she exuded in those sessions made it clear that she was more than capable of coaching in the NBA.
Hammon is in her seventh season with the Spurs coaching staff. When she was hired in 2014, she became the first full-time woman to join an NBA coaching staff. She continued to break barriers and make history. In 2015, she became the first woman to serve as head coach at the Summer League. That is not only a nod to her perseverance but her basketball smarts as well.
Becky Hammon is the first woman to coach in an NBA regular-season game
In Wednesday night’s contest against LA, it was business as usual for both sides. Then Gregg Popovich began arguing with officials over a no-call late in the second quarter. The officials weren’t having any of Popovich’s antics, ejecting him from the game. Becky Hammon took head coaching responsibilities, becoming the first woman to serve as head coach in an NBA regular-season game.
“He officially pointed at me. That was it. … That was it,” Hammon said per ESPN. “Said, ‘You got ’em,’ and that was it. Very Pop-like.”
With Hammon at the helm, the Spurs managed to cut the Lakers’ lead to five in the second. They remained within striking distance in the second half but ultimately lost the game 121-107. After the contest, Hammon talked about the moment and what it meant to her.
“It’s a substantial moment. I’ve been a part of this organization, I got traded here in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the Stars and everything for 13 years. So I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me, in building me and getting me better,” Hammon said per ESPN.
The future is bright for Becky Hammon and all women coaches
This moment in the NBA is another glass ceiling being broken for women coaches. Seeing Hammon roam the sidelines in an NBA game is a sight that all aspiring woman coaches need to see. She has put in the work, and her peers are recognizing and praising her for her efforts.
“She’s equipped. She’s intelligent. The guys have a great respect for her. And I think she’s going to be a head coach in this league someday,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel per ESPN.
“It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets, and she’s very passionate about the game, so congrats to her and congrats to the league,” said Lakers forward Lebron James per ESPN.
“Becky played, and any player who knows the history of women’s basketball knows what she meant to the sport. … You don’t think twice about it. She’s one of us. When she speaks, we are all ears,” said Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan per ESPN.
Even though the win would’ve been the icing on the cake, Hammon should relish the moment. She has been a pioneer for women entering the coaching ranks in men-dominated sports. She lets her resume, experience, and work speak for itself, which has opened doors for herself and other women coaches. After Wednesday’s historic night, the future is bright for Becky Hammon and all other women coaches looking for their opportunity.