On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN that he believes the league “definitely will” have a female head coach and that it will happen “sooner, rather than later.”
The first name that came to many was Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, whom San Antonio hired prior to the 2014-15 season as the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.
The hiring of Hammon came after she served an unofficial internship with the team the previous season, attending practices and sitting behind the bench during games. At the time, NBA TV’s “NBA Inside Stuff” talked to Hammon, coach Gregg Popovich, and some of the players about the experience. The short segment gave a strong indication of just how highly the team felt about her coaching potential and hinted at what is to come.
Popovich in particular had several telling quotes, calling her a natural.
“She’s right in the middle and she know how to do it and our players really respond to her,” Popovich told NBA TV. “She’s just a natural.”
It also sounds as if Popovich feels Hammon has potential beyond just an assistant coach, comparing her to several NBA head coaches, including Steve Kerr.
“She talks the game. She understands the game. So for all those reasons, you really know she’s got that same sort of Avery Johnson, Steve Kerr, [Mike] Budenholzer-type thing.”
Hammon clearly left a strong impression on Popovich from the beginning and her addition to the team was anything but a publicity stunt.
“She’s been perfect,” Popovich said. “She knows when to talk and she knows when to shut up. That’s as simple as you can put it. A lot of people don’t figure that out.”
But while Silver said he believes the league will have a female head coach “sooner, rather than later,” we might have to wait a while before Hammon takes over an NBA team.
While serving under one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time is a great résumé builder, other assistant coaches typically spend a lot of time serving under Pop before branching out on their own.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was an assistant under Popovich for 17 years before his first head coaching gig with the Hawks. Likewise, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown spent 12 seasons with the Spurs before he took his first head coaching job.
Does Popovich preach patience to his assistants? Does he advise them to learn the craft thoroughly and wait for the perfect situation before making the leap? It seems like it.
In other words, Hammon seems destined to become a head coach, but it might be later, rather than soon, and that may be by design.
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