Becky Hammon: Basketball Pioneer

Posted on August 8, 2014 by Don MacPherson.

The sports world was abuzz this week with the announcement of a new coaching appointment by the San Antonio Spurs. For the first time in the history of the four major American sports, a woman has been added as a full-time, salaried member of a team’s coaching staff. Plenty of pundits and fans made claims the decision will be disastrous. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t see it that way. He sees assistant coach, Becky Hammon, as a basketball asset. He sees her as an expert and leader in her field. The San Antonio Spurs’ culture, head coach Gregg Popovich’s leadership, and Becky Hammon’s professional credentials are all reasons this hiring decision will be a success and elevate the Spurs even higher as the classiest team in the NBA.

The Spurs Way: The San Antonio Spurs have an organization unlike any other in the NBA. They have created a culture of class promoted by former player David Robinson and instilled by current stars Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan. Ever since Tim Duncan and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich joined forces, the Spurs have been viewed as the best run organization in the NBA. They are built on the theme that team comes before the individual. The Spurs franchise is built on a foundation of defense, selflessness, and playing together. An example of this team-first attitude is demonstrated by their three star players. All of them earn far less money than their market value. To them, winning is more important than maximizing their earning potential. Their leadership resonates to the rest of the organization.

Though the Spurs may seem boring off the court, they are one of the most successful franchises in NBA history – winning this year’s league title along with four others in the last 16 years. Having a woman in the locker room might be a distraction for some teams. Popovich, the three veteran stars, and the Spurs culture will ensure Becky Hammon is not a distraction, just another in a line of competitive advantages.

In Pop We Trust: Head coach Gregg Popovich is a no-nonsense guy. He makes calculated decisions and stands by them. He is known for limiting the playing time of his players during the regular season so they will be fresh for a playoff run. Another of those calculated decisions is to bring Becky Hammon on board as an assistant coach. Popovich views staff for what they bring to the table: their credentials, areas of expertise, and overall basketball IQ. Women have been employed in unpaid coaching positions and worked for NBA summer training programs, but a full-time position has never been in the works for a coaching position. Popovich understand that barriers cannot be broken by outsiders like Hammon alone. They must be helped by leaders who are influential and secure enough in themselves to make disruptive decisions. This hiring decision by Popovich will not only work out well for the Spurs, it will invite other teams to make similar decisions.

Becky Hammon Skillset:Becky Hammon is a veteran of the WNBA. She is a six-time WNBA All-Star and was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All-Time. She knows the game. She played in the WNBA for 13 seasons to go along with 11 seasons outside the United States. Popovich noticed her for her basketball credentials, her unprecedented interpersonal skills, and work ethic. Not only is she qualified for the job, but, having spent years within the San Antonio organization, she has chemistry with the Spurs that will help make her a successful asset to the coaching staff. Without question, Hammon will bring a unique perspective to the game that no other coach will have.

The addition of Becky Hammon, or any woman, to an NBA coaching roster is a decision that will continue to be seen as a risk to many sports professionals. Having a woman work in a male dominated field, not only on the bench but also in the locker room, is new territory. This decision will work for the Spurs. Their team culture is far superior to that of the majority of NBA teams. Head coach Gregg Popovich makes decisions that benefit his team. This hire is not a gimmick. When he considers an important hiring decision, he looks for any way to bring a competitive advantage to the Spurs. Becky Hammon is an experienced professional basketball player with the credentials to be successful in her new position. As the controversy around this hire quiets, the NBA may have experienced another shrewd move in San Antonio.


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