Becky Hammon becomes first woman to coach NBA team

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Becky Hammon would have preferred a victory over history after becoming the first woman to coach an NBA team. The assistant coach took over the San Antonio Spurs in the second quarter after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a 121-107 loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

“I try not to think of the huge picture and huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming,” Hammon said. “I really have had no time to reflect. I have not had time to look at my phone. So, I don’t know what’s going on outside the AT&T Center.”

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs coach Becky Hammon questions a call from official Derek Richardson (63) in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at AT&T on Dec 30, 2020. 

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports


Hammon and the Spurs already had a lot to contend with against the defending league champion Lakers.

James celebrated his 36th birthday with 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Lakers’ third double-digit victory. The teams will complete the two-game set Friday night.

“(I was) trying to get the guys in the right spots,” Hammon said. “Trying to get them motivated. Obviously, it’s a learning situation for all of us, but I would have loved to have walked out there with a win with the guys.”

Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Popovich screamed at Brown and entered the court following a non-call on DeMar DeRozan’s attempted layup and a subsequent attempted rebound by Drew Eubanks.

As he exited the court to applause from several of the team’s family members in attendance, Popovich pointed a finger at Hammon and had a succinct message.

“You got ’em,” Hammon said. “See? He doesn’t treat us any differently than he does you guys.”

When Popovich hired Hammon in 2014, he praised her “basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills.”

Said LeBron James: “Obviously she’s been paying her dues over the last few years and Coach Pop has given her the opportunity. … It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets. She’s very passionate about the game. Congrats to her and congrats for our league.”

Hammon took over the team’s huddles during timeouts and walked the sideline following Popovich’s ejection. Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.

“Well deserved,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I’ve talked to her before and she really knows her stuff and obviously she’s here for a reason. She’s equipped, intelligent (and the) guys have great respect for her. She’s going to be a great coach one day.”

A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as overseas before retiring to join Popovich’s staff in 2014. A recently unveiled mural in San Antonio pays homage to her trailblazing career.

“Even in timeouts with Pop as head coach, she is quick on her feet,” DeRozan said. “She tells us about defensive assignments, offensive sets we should run. Seeing her in the forefront, it would have definitely been cool to have won for her.”



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