Over the past two years, women have been stepping into coaching positions within NBA organizations. This article will bring to light the positives of incorporating women into the NBA landscape, and how it can help the league become a leader in creating jobs for qualified women in men’s professional sports.
The summer of 2014 was a historic one for females in the professional world of sports. San Antonio has been one of the best organizations in the league; it was evident when they announced Becky Hammon as the first paid female assistant coach in NBA history for the San Antonio Spurs. She will be the focal point of this article, as she is the first, of sure to be many, more women with coaching positions in the NBA.
Not many fans were knowledgeable about what Hammon would bring to the team, or why she was brought up in the first place to be the leader in incorporating women into professional men’s basketball. This is why I will talk about her early life growing up, including her experiences in the WNBA, how her philosophies helped her make it to the more popular NBA, and the difficulty of transitioning to a men’s league.
Becky Hammon was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, and that is where her dream to play professional basketball started. As a child, Hammon always spoke to her parents, mainly her father, about wanting to play in the NBA. Unfortunately, for Hammon, the NBA is strictly a male league, and her father would tell her, “You will never do that.” Hammon continued her basketball career in High School, and as a junior she was named South Dakota’s Miss Basketball. Her senior year was just as impressive, as she was voted South Dakota Player of the Year after averaging 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals per game. Her final accomplishment from her senior year was being voted as best female class athlete by her graduating class.
Hammon did not quit on basketball after High School, and played collegiality at Colorado State University. Becky Hammon was an absolute monster in the world of college basketball. In her final season with the team, Hammon was able to help lead the Ram’s to a 33-3 record, and advance to the NCAA tournament’s sweet sixteen. She accomplished being named an All-American, as well as being named Colorado Sportswoman of the Year. Hammon is not a very tall women, only standing 5’6, and with that she was awarded the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, for best senior player under 5’8. Hammon set many records at Colorado State including, total points (2740), points per game (21.92), field goals made (918), free throws made (539), three-point field goals made (365) and assists (538). On November 12, 2004, Hammon was elected into the Colorado State University Sports Hall of Fame. Shortly after, on January 22, 2005, Hammon’s number 25 jersey was retired at Moby Arena.
Until 1997, there was no WNBA, but luckily for a graduated Hammond, in the year 1999, she had the opportunity to try and get drafted to play professionally. Hammond went undrafted, but was signed by the New York Liberty. She instantly became a fan favorite with her aggressive style of play on both ends of the court. In 2004, Hammon became the starting point guard for the Liberty, as well as being named a co-captain. At the end of her 2005 season, Hammon was named to the All-WNBA Second Team. April 4, 2007, Hammon was traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars, which allowed her to explode statistically. In her first season with San Antonio, Hammon averaged 18.8 points per game and 5.0 assists per game. She earned the nickname “Big Shot Becky,” due to her ability to hit clutch shots. The following season was even better for Hammon, as she lead the Stars to a WNBA best 24-10 record, and to the finals, where they ended up being swept by the Detroit Shock. Over the course of her professional playing days, Hammon was a six time WNBA All-Star, two time All-WNBA First Team, two time All-WNBA Second Team, and 2007 WNBA Assist Leader.
Due to an ACL tear in 2013, Hammon’s playing days came to an end, but her dream to make it to the NBA was not over, as she wanted to become a coach. So, Hammond began visiting San Antonio Spurs practices, meetings, and games, where her opinion was often asked about regarding a wide range of different topics. In the summer of 2014, all the years of playing, and staying around the San Antonio Spurs paid off, as San Antonio made Hammon the first full time, salaried female coach in NBA history. Gregg Popovich was quoted on Hammon’s contributions to the team, as saying, “I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”
After her first season, San Antonio made Hammon the head coach of their summer league team, and on July 3, 2015 she became the first ever female head coach in NBA summer league. On July 20th, 2015, Hammon became the first female coach to win a summer league title. Hammon is completely changing the way a front office thinks in terms of who they look to hire. We have already another female assistant coach being hired in Sacramento’s new assistant, Nancy Lieberman. Although we will not go in as much depth on Lieberman, due to the fact she is not the leader of the female coach movement, she is still a critical step in the right direction.
The journey to the NBA level is not an easy one, especially for a women. As many people know, most professional and college basketball head coaches have either played professionally, or at least at a collegiate level. This is a huge advantage for these coaches in the interview process. Before the WNBA, if this tactic was used to hire coaches, it all but eliminated females from even having a shot at the job. The main goal prior to the past two years for women was the WNBA, but now shown by Hammon, the WNBA can be used as a stepping stone for both men and women to hone their coaching skills before getting a shot at the NBA.
The process of integrating women into a men’s sporting world will not be easy, but the benefits will be greater than any perceived risks. These benefits include new perspectives on the game of basketball for men, a new way to develop coaches, -before they get to the NBA level- building better chemistry between the players, a bigger women audience, increasing the viewership of the WNBA, -so it can become more popular- and actually become profitable.
The thing to remember when you want to come up with a sexist remark to the idea of women being inferior to male competition is that coaching and playing are completely different. Coaching is a cognitive exercise, while playing is a physical exercise. Coaching requires knowledge of the game, rules, rotations, chemistry, clock management, and player development. Playing the game requires a totally different skill set, and although females are not always blessed with the same physical abilities as their male counterparts, they have the same capable mind to coach these men.
The future is very bright for women in the professional men’s league, as we saw this summer the Arizona Cardinals hire Jen Welter to become the first female coach in the NFL, and the Sacramento Kings hire Nancy Lieberman. We are trying to break all sorts of gender gaps in the world, and with sports being such a critical idea to many societies, the chance of creating equal rights for women can only be improved by a sports movement showing both genders, although not always physically parallel, women still have the cognitive ability to be equal on and off the field.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17