Becky Hammon: Conquering a Man’s World

The reigning NBA champions have a familiar feel about their organisation this year. The 14 players that suited up in the NBA Finals have all returned, and the only playing addition is rookie Kyle Anderson (drafted with the 30th pick in the NBA draft this summer).

An arguably more striking addition than Anderson (although I do believe the Spurs have a steal in the UCLA forward) has been to their coaching staff, where on August 5th, Becky Hammon was announced as the first ever full-time female assistant coach in the NBA.

Not only is this a monumental step for the league, it is huge for American sports in general. Hammon is the first woman to be a full-time member of a coaching staff in any of the 4 major sports state-side, and seeing how she cracks a male-dominated environment will be intriguing.

There have been brief flirtations with female coaches in the NBA, with a couple working for teams voluntarily, or on Summer League Rosters, but Hammon is the first with a fully fledged.

Here in the UK there have been several debates about how successful a female coach could be, and how will the locker room attitudes would be. The prevailing response when someone as successful as Hope Powell (British soccer coach) is linked with a vacant managerial job at a football team, is one of sniggering and guffawing at how the masculinity of the squad will over-power her and not take her ideas seriously.

The Spurs have made a wise choice though. Hammon has been known to the organisation for a while, and was spotted at Spurs practice several times last year, often giving input to Coach Popovich and his staff, along with the players.

Several detractors have claimed that the move is nothing more than a publicity stunt, but the fact that Hammon has been employed by the Spurs gives it credibility. The whole organisation is known for their innovative approach to the game, and they are renowned for finding diamonds in the rough, especially when it comes to their coaching staff.

Hammon herself is a familiar face to San Antonio hoops fans, having played the last 8 seasons of her WNBA career for the San Antonio Stars. She received 7 All-Star nominations throughout her 16 seasons in the league, as well as helping Russia to a bronze medal in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.

At her unveiling, Hammon paid tribute to women such as Lisa Boyer, stating that she was reaping the benefits of their efforts (Boyer spent a season as a volunteer coach with the Cavs, but did not travel with the team) and without Boyer she would not be in the position she is in today.

Hopefully Hammon will be a successful coach; Popovich has obviously seen enough from her to suggest that he believes she will be, and she could pave the way for more women to be given opportunities. Learning from the Spurs coaching staff, with a roster that is famed for their willingness to learn and adapt, I believe that Becky Hammon will be a roaring success. 

Brett Woodward 

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