“I’m not here to make history,” Popovich said then.
“Obviously it’s a big deal. It’s a substantial moment,” she added.
“Well-deserved,” said Lakers Coach Frank Vogel. “I’ve talked to her a bunch. … She knows her stuff. She’s here for a reason. … I think she’s going to be a head coach someday.”
“She’s been putting in the work,” the Lakers’ LeBron James said of Hammon. “Anytime you put in the work, you’re rewarded with opportunities. Tonight was the case where she got to step in and show her worth, talent, and love for the game. Congrats to her and congrats to our league.”
Hammon received her temporary, but history-making, promotion after Popovich expressed displeasure with the lack of a foul call when San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan drove to the basket, missed, and teammate Drew Eubanks was denied on a putback attempt.
Asked whether, with Duncan not back on the coaching staff this year, she came into the season knowing that she would take over if Popovich got ejected, Hammon replied, “No. We don’t have a lot of discussions like that. We just roll with the punches. When Pop gives us an order, we go with it.”
An all-American guard at Colorado State, Hammon went undrafted in the WNBA before joining the New York Liberty in 1999 and going on to become a six-time all-star. After eight years with that franchise, she was traded to the San Antonio Stars, with whom she spent the final eight years of her WNBA career. She ranks sixth in league history in assists and 12th in points.
Hammon’s hiring by the Spurs made her the first female full-time assistant in any of the major United States professional sports leagues. She has been in charge of the Spurs Las Vegas Summer League team three times, winning the title in 2015.
On Wednesday, Hammon said that she “did not walk into the arena thinking I’d be coaching tonight,” adding, “Overall, I would have loved to get a win more than anything.”
Hammon said that after she was called upon to lead the Spurs against the Lakers, she tried keep her focus on helping her team get a victory.
“I try not to think of the huge picture and huge aspect of it,” she told reporters, “because it can be overwhelming.”