Proving why they are one of the model organizations in all of professional sport, the San Antonio Spurs made a bold and long overdue statement by hiring the first full-time salaried female assistant coach in men’s pro sports. Longtime WNBA veteran Becky Hammons, who is retiring at the end of the 2014 season, shall hang up her jersey in order to serve on Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff.
Former Cleveland Rockers head coach Lisa Boyer once served with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers on a part-time basis during the 2001-02 campaign. Of note, her salary was covered by the Rockers organization and she did not travel with the Cavaliers on road games.
The involvement of Hammons with the Spurs came in 2013 as Hammons was recovering from a torn knee ligament. Her injury resulted in playing only one game for the Silver Starz during their 2013 campaign. Having spoken to her head coach Dan Hughes, she asked if he could communicate with Popovich about consenting to her observing coaching techniques with the Spurs. It would result in an opportunity to attend coaches meetings, attend drills and Spurs practices.
Having known Spurs players such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green, the players felt very comfortable having her attend various practices. Known as an individual with a cerebral approach to the game, coaching has long been a desired second career for Hammons.
As a side note, Popovich actually compared Hammons to former NBA players that would find second careers as head coaches, such as Avery Johnson and Steve Kerr (both played or coached with Popovich). Taking into account that Johnson, Kerr and Hammons are all point guards, they approach the game with an analytical approach, which is essential as the point guard is in effect the playmaker.
Hammons is not the only new face on Popovich’s coaching staff. Recently, he hired international coach Ettore Messina as an assistant. As a head coach, Messina won four Euroleague titles and was inducted into the Italian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Both of these newly hired assistants may signify a new trend in NBA basketball, where female stars and European-trained basketball personnel earn further opportunities in coaching.