The San Antonio Spurs have long set the precedent of how to run an organisation, and they continued that trend in 2014 when they hired Becky Hammon as an assistant coach.
Hammon, who played 16 years in the WNBA, became the first paid female assistant in NBA history.
As part of the NBA’s work with Lean In, an organisation that encourages men to support gender equality in the home, Hammon took part in a video discussing her role with the Spurs. In particular, she heaped praise on Gregg Popovich for giving her the chance to break a barrier in the NBA.
“I’m not here unless Coach Pop kind of sees me genderless — he sees me as a person that knows basketball,” Hammon began.
“He didn’t care that I was a woman. What he cared about was, can I help the team and will I do a good job. Pop leaned in for me, big time. And I think people wanna put me on this barrier-breaker — really Pop is the barrier-breaker. You know, I might have been the tool, but Pop, he thrust me through that ceiling. The fact that he invited me into their inner-circle was a huge vote of confidence, and I do believe leadership knows no gender.”
It’s not the first time Hammon has credited Popovich with giving her the opportunity to coach in the NBA. Popovich coached the All-Star game this year for the Western Conference, which meant Hammon as an assistant became the first female assistant to coach an All-Star Game. Leading up to it, she again recognised Popovich and the Spurs’ ability to see past gender.
“For me, I think it’s such a notable point to make that a leader had to believe, a leader had to see that potential,” she said. “A person had to come along that didn’t care about gender. They care about how you do your job.”
And, of course, Popovich has had only positive things to say about Hammon.
“She talks the game, she understands the game, so in that respect, I have no doubt that she’s going to be able to be one heckuva coach,” Popovich said in the NBA’s Lean In video.
Popovich also spoke about Hammon over the summer when she coached the Spurs’ Summer League team in Las Vegas.
“I don’t even look at it as, well, she’s the first female this and that and the other. She’s a coach, and she’s good at it. I think some people thought this was some kind of gimmick or we were just trying to be cool. I’m glad she’s there. I respect her opinion, I enjoy the give-and-take with her, and when she went to the summer league, that stuff’s about development. … That was her purpose at summer league, and she did a great job trying to make guys play the way we wanted them to play.”
The Spurs continue to be the model franchise in perhaps all of sports, thanks in large part to Popovich.
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