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Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich says women could coach in NBA

Becky Hammon. (Associated Press)

At the behest of San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich, WNBA veteran Becky Hammon has been attending Spurs practices this season while she recovered from a knee injury. Hammon, who says she would like to coach once her playing career is over, also has broken down film with San Antonio’s coaches and has sat behind the bench during home games.

Popovich says the time is coming when women are coaching men in the NBA.

“I don’t see why not. There shouldn’t be any limitations,” Popovich said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s about talent and the ability to do things. It’s not about what your sex is or your race or anything else.”

Women have coached men’s teams on rare occasions in college basketball, the AP points out: “Rick Pitino hired Bernadette Maddox at Kentucky as one of the first female assistants in Division I men’s basketball in 1990. Others who joined the assistant men’s ranks more than a decade ago include Stephanie Ready at Coppin State and Jennifer Johnston at Oakland University. In 2009, basketball legend Nancy Lieberman coached an NBA Developmental League team in Dallas.” But so far, there haven’t been any female coaches in the NBA. Popovich thinks Hammon could change that.

“She wants to coach after she’s done,” Popovich said. “Because she’s not just a good player but a smart player, a great person in our community, just somebody that we all respect so much, we gave her the opportunity to sit with us during the year. She came to our coaches’ meetings, argued with us. She did everything. She’s been wonderful.”

Hammon, 37, is giving the WNBA one last shot in training camp, but when her playing career ends, she seems destined to be a coach.

“I do think it’s time that some of those barriers do come down,” she said. “I think it’s silly on a certain level. If you know and understand basketball, you know and understand basketball, period.”