The San Antonio Spurs made history on Tuesday when they announced that Becky Hammon, who is retiring this month after 16-seasons of playing in the W.N.B.A., will be an assistant coach next season, the N.B.A. team announced Tuesday.
Hammon, 37, becomes the first woman to be hired to a full-time paid coaching position. She is the second woman to serve on an N.B.A. coaching staff. The first was Lisa Boyer, who was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ staff for the 2001-02 season. Boyers, however, worked part time and was not paid by the team according to the New York Times.
“It’s a tremendous challenge, and it comes with tremendous responsibility,” Hammon said Tuesday. “There have been so many other women that are doing really, really great things, and I’m just kind of following in their paths.”
Hammon became a fixture during the 2013-14 N.B.A. season around the Spurs’ organization in an unofficial capacity. After coming off a knee injury in 2013, Hammon began to consider more seriously finding a coaching position once her playing career ended.
The rehabilitation process allowed her to stay in San Antonio, and the Spurs welcomed her into their practices, film-review sessions, and coaching meetings. She watched the games from behind the bench as the Spurs tackled their fifth championship. She referred to her whole experience with the Spurs on Tuesday as “an internship.”
“Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball I.Q., work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs,” Coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday in a statement.
Hammon said that Popovich made it clear that the hiring would be strictly related to her qualifications in basketball. Hammon said, “He says, ‘It just so happens you’re a woman.’”
The Spurs are often praised for applying innovative and outside-the-box thinking to their basketball operations, which makes hiring Becky Hammon full-time an unsurprising move.
“I think it’s no surprise to anybody that they think a little bit differently down here,” Hammon said of the Spurs.
Hammon, a point guard, was a six-time All-Star selection in the W.N.B.A., and in 2011 she was named one of the 15 best players in league history. She averaged 8.6 points and 4.2 assists in 27 games during for the San Antonio Stars this season.