The San Antonio Spurs will have a new face on their bench on Tuesday night when Becky Hammon, the first female assistant coach in major pro sports history, takes her place alongside Coach Gregg Popovich when the team tips off against the Dallas Mavericks.
While the Spurs organization and most sports writers and NBA personnel have welcomed the addition of Hammon to the team, a few holdouts, who are seemingly unaware it’s 2014, still greet the ex-WNBA star with sexism.
“Haters are gonna hate,” Hammon explains to New York Liberty forward and CBS Sports correspondent Swin Cash, while giving her a behind-the-scenes tour of the Spurs’ facilities. She explains the situation are few-and-far between, but they still happen.
“A reporter in Europe, he said, ‘So, as a coach, do you look at [players] and say ‘that’s a good player,’ or ‘that’s a really good-looking player and he’s also good at basketball,’ and I was like, ‘Excuse me?’ ” she said, later indicating that she deals with the ignorance with humor.
“I had another one that said, ‘You don’t think these guys are really gonna listen to her, you know, maybe if they want to learn tips about baking cookies,’ and I said, ‘You tell him I make a hell of a chocolate chip cookie,’ ” Hammon recalled.
Hammon’s humor hasn’t just helped her cope with jerks, however, it also helped land her the assistant coaching job, according to Bleacher Report.
“No sense of humor, no job,” Popovich told the Web site.
“For lack of a better word, they are all ball-busters, for sure,” Hammon told Bleacher Report, who notes she was smiling. “They love to have a good time. They love to work. But I think in the midst of working, you can’t get too crazy serious. So they crack on each other, and they crack on me, which makes me feel right at home.”
Along with the humor, though, comes a great deal of respect, which Hammon says has nothing to do with her gender.
“They don’t look at me as the female coach,” Hammon tells Cash of CBS Sports. “They look at me as coach, and that’s what I prefer.”
The Spurs hired Hammon, 37, in August, after she ended a 16-season, all-star WNBA career, and she started shortly afterward. But even before that, she had developed a rapport with the team. While recovering from knee surgery last year, an injury that Hammon now describes as “one of the biggest blessings in disguise,” Hammon became a coaching intern for the Spurs and Popovich liked what he saw.
“When you’ve been around it, you know who can coach and who can’t coach,” Popovich told Bleacher Report when asked what led him to hire Hammon. “Becky is one of those people. She’s a Steve Kerr. She’s a Doc Rivers. She’s those kind of people. They have a feel for the game that they want to continue to participate in.”
“She jumped right in,” assistant coach Ime Udoka told Bleacher Report of Hammon.
“I… scout, I’m in all the film sessions, I’m in all the coaches meetings, I travel… I’m in on everything,” Hammon told CBS Sports. And on Tuesday night she’ll get her first taste of regular-season action. The game is scheduled to air on TNT starting at 8 p.m. EDT.