From the outset, Becky Hammon had made history before the opening tip-off of the NBA’s Summer League Championship Game. Having made history as the first female assistant coach in NBA history (she served under Gregg Popovich’s staff with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014-15), she would build on such a legacy by serving as the first female head coach in Summer League play.
Leading the San Antonio Spurs prospects and draft picks into Summer League play, Hammon’s tutelage resulted in a 93-90 victory against the Phoenix Suns in the championship game. A key factor in the victory for San Antonio was the fact that Phoenix committed 18 turnovers. The loss compounds frustrations that Phoenix has already endured at the hands of San Antonio, as they acquired prized free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.
Although Hammon becomes the first female head coach to win a Summer League title, an encouraging sign was that two other WNBA stars were coaches as well. Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman-Cline was part of the Sacramento Kings coaching staff, while the Toronto Raptors also opened their doors to Lindsay Harding on its coaching staff.
During the 17-day long Summer League season, the fact that the players respected Hammon, in addition to being attentive and responding positively to her feedback and guidance, was testament to the growing role of women in coaching. Although San Antonio lost their opening game against the New York Knicks, the club bounced back to win five consecutive games.
Reputed as a “player’s coach”, she was quick to acknowledge the hard work of her team during the acceptance of the championship trophy. During the locker room ceremonies, she was the recipient of a Gatorade bath, obligatory among all championship coaches throughout sport.
As Hammon noted how the team truly began to come together over the last three to four games of Summer League play, she is equally deserving of the credit. Taking into account that Summer League play features a blend of draft picks, D-League prospects and undrafted free agents with no familiarity, the lack of chemistry is a significant challenge for any coach to overcome.
One player who is poised to benefit from Hammon’s guidance is Jonathon Simmons, whose 23 points topped all scorers. Named MVP of the Summer League’s championship game, he was signed to a one-year guaranteed contract by San Antonio. As a side note, he spent the 2014-15 season with their D-League Affiliate.