Becky Hammon was given the name “Big Shot Becky” because of her ability to hit big shots in clutch moments. Tuesday, Hammon hit one of the biggest shots in sports history becoming the first full-time female assistant NBA coach. The San Antonio Spurs announced that Hammon would be taking a coaching position with the team. Head coach Greg Popovich released a statement to the media saying “I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. 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.” The Spurs are coming off their fifth championship of the Popovich-Tim Duncan era.
In a news conference Hammon remarked “Coach Pop has made it very clear to me that I’m being hired because of my basketball IQ and because I’m qualified…It just so happens that I’m a woman.” She went on to recognize those trailblazers before her, such as Nancy Lieberman, who coached the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League team in 2009, and Lisa Boyer, a volunteer assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001-2002. “Obviously this is a big deal, but the bigger deal is, I feel like there’s been greater pioneers to even get to this point,” Hammon said. “CEOs, COOs of companies, major trailblazers, people that went before me basketball-wise to allow me to have a 16-year playing career. …There have been so many other women who have been doing really great things.”
Hammon is in her 16th season in the WNBA and her eighth season with the San Antonio Stars. During her career she has racked up some impressive stats-5,809 points (seventh all-time), 1,687 assists (fourth), played in 445 games (sixth), is a seven-time All-Star and has been voted one of the top 15 WNBA players in history. She also played for the Russian national team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. All this from a player who despite being a three-time All-American in college at Colorado State, wasn’t selected in the 1999 WNBA draft. That tells you a little something about her drive and determination.
She is also one to use her setbacks as springboards. In 2013 when Hammon was recovering from an ACL injury, she used that time to do a coaching internship with the Spurs. “When I blew out my knee, it happened to be one of the biggest blessings in disguise because it allowed me to stay here and start forming relationships with the staff, players and organization,” Hammon said.
She had announced that she would be retiring at the end of the year, opening the door for her next challenge. “Nothing in my life has really ever been easy. I’ve always been someone who did it uphill,” Hammon said. “I’m up for challenges. I’m up for being outside the box, making tough decisions and challenges. … And I’m a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. Throw those all in there and this was the perfect challenge and opportunity.”
Here’s a video showing Hammon learning the “Spurs Way”:
Hammon’s hiring is an inspiration for women everywhere. “People ask me all the time, will there ever be a woman player in the NBA?” Hammon said. “To be honest, no. There are differences. The guys are too big, too strong and that’s just the way it is…But when it comes to things of the mind, things like coaching, game-planning, coming up with offensive and defensive schemes, there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t be in the mix and shouldn’t be in the mix.”
I’m very excited to watch Hammon in the mix. Even though at one time it was stated on Facebook that one of her favorite moments on the court was when Colorado State went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and beat Nebraska in the first round. I was a player on that Nebraska team that lost in the first round in Palo Alto 62-66. I also had the privilege of watching Hammon play in high school when we were both campers at Nebraska’s summer basketball camp with then head coach Angela Beck. Hammon was one of those players I aspired to be like in high school and she continues to be someone for all of us to look up to, learn from and who leads the way for many to follow in her high tops.