Wesley Eggleston | Staff Writer
Former WNBA superstar Becky Hammon became the first female head coach to win the Vegas Summer League Championship Monday night, defeating the Phoenix Suns 93-90. Hammon went 6-1 on her way to the title, building on the winning culture that comes with being a part of the Spurs organization. She began coaching last season when Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made history by hiring Hammon to be an assistant on his staff following her retirement in 2014.
Hammon was a point guard for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars when she played so it comes as no surprise she has a knack for seeing the floor well, even from a coach’s perspective, and a high basketball IQ. Coach Pop granted Hammon the opportunity to coach the Vegas Summer League team, and low and behold, it paid off.
“It’s just a great learning process for me, and the guys had to take some of my mistakes…. And I made plenty, but we just kept hanging together as a group,” Hammon told reporters following the championship game. This was a good stepping-stone for Hammon as she continues to make the transition from player to coach.
Before you sleep on the possibility and dismiss the idea, just look around the NBA: Coach Pop has disciples all around the league as head coaches, assistants, and front office associates.
Hammon also had the pleasure of coaching the Summer League MVP Kyle Anderson and championship game MVP Jonathan Simmons. Simmons recently signed a two-year deal with the 2014 NBA Champions.
“It’s a humbling experience for all of us,” Simmons said after the game to NBA TV. “She did a great job with us. She was solid the whole way. It’s good to be a part of history. This day will go down in the history books for years to come. I barely know her and I love her already.”
Simmons will have even more opportunity to get to know Hammon this upcoming season because the NBA rookie will likely be a bottom end of the bench type of player and that usually means getting advice from the assistants more often than not.
Anderson finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Simmons finished with 23 points in the title game. We live in a society now where the “un-norm” is becoming the norm and Hammon just proved, even on a smaller stage, that women with the right intellect and passion can do what is considered a “man’s job” of coaching NBA players.
As she continues to groom under Popovich, she will only get better, and regardless of whether she becomes the first woman to coach in the NBA, takes her talents to coach in the WNBA or even on the college level, she will certainly be ready for the task.
For Hammon, this day should soon be around the corner but first she must celebrate like a champ in true Coach Pop fashion. “Pop will tell me to [enjoy] a big glass of wine,” she told reporters. Now it would be irresponsible and a “prisoner of the moment” type of response to say that Hammon is prepared to be a full-time head coach right now, but having patience and tutelage under Coach Popovich, it will be sooner rather than later we should see it occur.
Let us all not treat her differently because she is a woman in the NBA and show her respect like her players were able to do and just call her “Coach Hammon”. Basketball is a language we can all speak; it doesn’t stereotype.
Being with the Spurs has put Hammon in the right organization to make that history-making dream a reality and the wheels may have already started turning, as Skip Bayless suggested Tuesday morning on ESPN First Take, “If in fact Coach Pop, as he says, is going to coach on through LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract, four more years. As a Spurs fan, it would not bother me if Becky could wait it out for those four years, continue to learn, and take over, “Bayless shared. “ Wouldn’t bother me a bit.”