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Becky Hammon, A Trail-Blazer For The San Antonio Spurs

Paolo Uggetti |
August 6, 2014 | 1:15 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Becky Hammon, from WNBA player to NBA coach. (@SportsBlogger/Twitter)
Becky Hammon, from WNBA player to NBA coach. (@SportsBlogger/Twitter)

A few weeks ago, the topic of discussion in the sports media world centered around the controversial Ray Rice abuse and assault situation involving his fiancée. The topic became a heated point of debate as questionable decisions by teams, players and the NFL drew patronizing comments from prominent journalists--which in turn caused others to stand up in protest of those comments.

One week later, women are back in the spotlight of sports, but for a much more fitting reason. On the groundbreaking footsteps of attorney Michele Roberts being selected as the head of the NBA Player's Association, the San Antonio Spurs made a historic hire. On Tuesday, the defending champions hired the first ever full-time, fully-paid female assistant coach in Becky Hammon.

Becky Hammon is no PR choice by any means. Her basketball experience and resumé speak for themselves.

WNBA legend nearing retirement, basketball has been in Hammon's life from the moment she could play. Playing in high school, college and even internationally in the Olympics, she quickly became one of the most well-regarded, standout names in the WNBA. 

Yet, it is not just her presence that has made her a standout wherever she's played. It's her performance.

At Colorado State she put up all-time records for points, three-pointers, assists and steals, and as a nationalized citizen of Russia, she helped the team win a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.

However, the WNBA was her big stage. From 1999 until the present, Becky's career--first, with the New York Liberty and then with the San Antonio Silver Stars--has been one to behold. A seven-time WNBA All-Star logging over 10,000 career minutes and ranking in the top 10 for career games, points and assists, she has also been named as one of the Top 15 WNBA Players of All Time

Just as her performance on the court was off the charts, her basketball mind is evident to all those who have been around her. (When arguably the greatest coach of all-time in Gregg Popovich admires your basketball IQ and skills and identifies you as "a natural," you know you are doing something right.)

Becky Hammon has learned from the best in the game. (Twitter/@_Pirate_News)
Becky Hammon has learned from the best in the game. (Twitter/@_Pirate_News)

Hammon's initiative was the first sign of a positive step forward. This past season, while recovering from injury, she hung around the Spurs' team meetings, practices and games, learning the "Spurs Way," and even contributing her own opinions and thoughts to both the players and the staff. She claims her desire has always been to coach, and in this she saw an opportunity and made the most of it.

The reaping of those efforts materialized yesterday when the Spurs made the hire official. Yet, as groundbreaking as it was for women's role in the NBA, a historically patriarchal league, the Spurs rightfully made no note of her gender in the press release

It didn't matter whether she was male or female. What did matter is that she was qualified for the job. And in a time where women are still being wrongfully bashed for participating in the sports world, it was a bright spot for gender equality. 

Becky Hammon's hiring is not just one of the first encouraging signs pointing towards a progressive movement of long overdue gender equality in sports. Her hiring, specifically by the defending champions who never seem to err in basketball decisions, put to bed any speculation of incompetency now and in the future, and set an important standard of hiring with talent, not gender, in mind.

The Spurs, always appearing to be one step ahead of the game both on and off the court, were the perfect franchise to make the move and set the precedent. They made the decision, not merely to take a chance on Hammon, but rather because they knew she fully earned and deserved it. 

And who knows, this precedent may not stop here, nor should it. It's already being speculated that once Popovich retires, she may be in line to supplant him and become the first female head coach in the NBA. Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: With this initial gender wall now torn down, the future of women in the NBA seems bright and more importantly, it feels right. 

You can reach Staff Reporter Paolo Uggetti here, or follow him on Twitter.  



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