The San Antonio Spurs made history on Tuesday by hiring six-time WNBA all-star Becky Hammon as an assistant coach. Hammon, who is currently finishing up her 16th year as a player in the women’s league, will become the first full-time, regular-season female assistant coach in the NBA when she begins the job.
“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said in an NBA press release. “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.”
Until now, the closest an NBA team has come to hiring a female to join the regular season as a full-time assistant coach was Natalie Nakase, an assistant video coordinator for the Los Angeles Clippers, who was hired to help with the NBA’s summer league this season, NPR reports.
And previously, Lisa Boyer, an assistant coach with the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers at the time, became a volunteer assistant coach with the Cavaliers in 2001-02, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Boyer did not travel with the team, however. In contrast, will be on the regular season, full-time coaching staff of the Spurs.
The news should not come as a surprise, however. In May, Popovich told reporters that he was very open to hiring a female for a coaching position, as long as she was talented.
Hammon brings loads of firsthand experience to the Spurs, including eight years with the San Antonio Stars; she’s the team’s all-time leader in assists (1,112) and three-point field goals (493). She also currently ranks second in franchise history in points (3,442) and games (218).
“Obviously, this is a big deal. The bigger deal is I feel like there’s been greater pioneers to even get to this point,” Hammon told reporters when asked how she felt about being the first full-time, regular-season assistant coach hire in the NBA. “I hope little girls can say, ‘Hey look! People can do whatever they put their mind to.’ … I feel incredibly blessed and I’ll just do my best. … and work my tail off.”
The terms of Hammon’s contract with the Spurs were not disclosed, per club policy.
Hammon’s hiring adds to a line of recent progressive moves made by the NBA. Late last month, Michele Roberts, a Washington-based attorney, became the first woman to be named executive director of the NBA players’ union. And last year, the NBA didn’t flinch when Jason Collins came out as gay. He currently plays center for the Brooklyn Nets.