Becky Hammon’s departure from NBA hopefully won’t be permanent
Becky Hammon will be leaving San Antonio after this season to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA (formerly her former club, the San Antonio Silver Stars). The announcement came late on December 30 with Spurs facing a hit on New Years Eve and New Years, so it was difficult to focus on the ramifications of a really important development. Now she has had time to answer them.
Normally that wouldn’t be big news, but Hammon isn’t just another assistant coach for Spurs or the NBA in general. She was the longest-serving member of the San Antonio squad and was seen as the potential successor to Gregg Popovich, and many expected her to be the league’s first female head coach.
While a future at the helm in San Antonio or elsewhere in the NBA is still possible, Hammon’s decision seems to make his dream more unlikely. So it’s worth considering why she was able to do this.
First of all, it’s important to recognize that this was a wonderful opportunity for Hammon, for a number of reasons. She said it herself when speaking to the media. The WNBA never had the level of talent it has today, and although it does not yet have the support of mainstream media, it has gained followers. The league has seen its audience improve and is receiving an infusion of young marketable talent to accompany the familiar aging superstars who have carried the league for literally decades.
The Aces of Hammon have the MVP of the 2020 season to A’ja Wilson on their roster, along with other top players like Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum. The team had the second-best record in the league last season and should be a contender with Hammon at the helm, especially if they modernize the offense, which placed last in three-point attempts last season. It was also reported that Hammon will be the highest-paid WNBA coach of all time and that he will have a say in staff decisions. Becky turned her time in the NBA into a fantastic job.
It’s not the one she originally wanted, however. She made it clear that she was open to a job in the WNBA and briefly considered an offer to coach the Florida Gators women’s team, but said her goal was to secure an opportunity in the NBA. She did what she could to achieve this goal. Hammon worked his way from second to first and became one of Popovich’s main assistants, which is a sure-fire way to step up to a head coaching position. Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown, Jacque Vaughn, James Borrego, Jim Boylen and Ime Udoka all had the opportunity to lead teams away from San Antonio right after working under Pop. Hammon was not so lucky despite the interest of four teams and reaching the final stage with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, it’s not clear if any of the teams that interviewed Hammon actually intended to hire him, even for her.
Obviously, she wasn’t happy with the way things turned out in her many interviews, and for good reason, but her decision to give up on her goal of becoming the NBA head coach for now. surely also has to do with Spurs. While other assistants, from hyper accomplished like Ettore Messina (another underdog who never had a chance at the big job) to rising stars like Will Hardy, moved on, Hammon stayed. We’ll never know if she did because she didn’t get any offers to be an assistant anywhere else, because she felt staying with Pop was the best way to get a head coach job, because that she thought she was going to be Pop’s successor, or just because she was comfortable in San Antonio. But the answer could be important. Popovich and Spurs deserve a lot of credit for hiring Hammon, but did they actually see her as a potential head coach? If they weren’t – or if Hammon thought they weren’t – his decision makes a lot more sense.
It’s safe to say that the NBA clearly did not treat Hammon fairly if, as it recently admitted, the excuse used to deny him a real blow for the big job was that it had only been in San Antonio and had never been a head coach. We know that this reasoning is not valid, as there are many examples of men who got a head coaching job without any experience, or who got a job after only working under Pop. Luckily, she’ll be able to tick those arbitrary boxes once he’s in Las Vegas, but it’s fair to wonder if once she leaves the NBA world, will there be any new opportunities for her. to come back ? No head coach made an immediate transition from the WNBA to the NBA. Even former NBA players who have enjoyed huge success at the WNBA level, like Michael Cooper and Bill Laimbeer, only managed to secure assistant positions when they made the leap.
Hammon is no stranger to being a trailblazer, so she probably relishes the challenge of forging a new course again. The winds of change are blowing, with more and more women joining the coaching ranks of the NBA and public opinion being more receptive to these additions. If she succeeds in Las Vegas, there will be pressure to give Hammon an opportunity in the NBA, and for good reason, not only by the media but probably also by the players, who have in general shown immense respect for both the WNBA and Hammon. And as she takes the reins back, she won’t be as scrutinized as she is now and would have been had she taken her first steps as head coach of the NBA. While not what she actually wanted, Hammon’s new job probably comes at a good time for her and shouldn’t completely destroy her chances of reaching her original goal. At least that’s hope.
Pioneers often have to be content with opening doors for others that they can never get through on their own, but that shouldn’t be Hammon’s fate. If becoming the head coach of the NBA continues to be her goal, we have to believe that she will succeed as the alternative is too dark for anyone who has been encouraged by the league to finally make some progress in terms of a tie over the course. of the last decade.
Even as she prepares to leave the league, Hammon will remain a reluctant symbol, an avatar of change that never fully materialized. Hopefully soon the day will come when she can be seen only for what she always has been: a capable leader who is willing to make the most of her luck, if someone is smart enough to give her one.