Becky Hammon made history Tuesday night in her debut as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in pro sports history. The Spurs took down the Dallas Mavericks 101-100 in both teams’ season opener.
Hammon enjoyed a long and successful career in the WNBA over the course of 16 seasons, and took a job as a coaching intern with the Spurs while recovering from a knee injury last year. During this time, head coach Greg Popovich lauded Hammon’s talent and rapport with the team, brushing off critics who have pandered to questioning the decision to hire a female coach in a men’s sport.
Popovich told Bleacher Report that, “When you’ve been around it, you know who can coach and who can’t coach. 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.”
“Character. Working for each other, trusting your teammates, that stuff is universal. There’s no gender role, there’s no color there. It’s just people coming together and working,” Hammon told Robin Roberts in segment for In the Game on ESPN W.
While Hammon won’t be without her critics, the willingness of an NBA franchise to break the mold speaks to the League’s diversity and inclusion efforts, which include bringing in LGBT ally groups like Athlete Ally to speak with players at the annual Rookie Symposium. This year, Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor spoke alongside Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player. The WNBA’s LGBT inclusion efforts have been remarkable as well, as they debuted a Pride Platform this past spring with COVERGIRL, celebrating inclusion and equality for all players, fans, coaches, and personnel.
Asked by Roberts whether she could one day see herself as a head coach, Hammon said, “I don’t know. I’ve always been somebody that tries to take one day in at a time. I’ve got a lot to learn. But I think it’s possible, one day. I think we’ll see it in our lifetime.”