“It’s something that is not just in basketball. Whether it’s business, if you discount half the population, how can you be competitive in a global market? In sports, it’s about winning. If someone can help you win, it shouldn’t matter whether they’re black, whether they’re female. If they help you win, that’s good. It looked like she helped [the Spurs] win, so that’s great.”
“I’m really happy for her,” Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said. “It’s great when someone is given this opportunity and makes the most of it. It should not be such a big deal. It should not be rare. It is, because she’s the only one doing it.
The first instinct is to feel grateful toward the Spurs for inching the sports world forward. The other appropriate reaction is to feel fortunate for the Spurs, to congratulate one of the smartest organizations in sports on another wise move: identifying and hiring an excellent assistant coach. The Spurs didn’t hire her because they wanted to advance society; that’s not how professional sports operate. They hired Hammon to win games.
Monday night in Las Vegas, two weeks after she became the first female head coach in the league’s brief history, Hammon coached the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Summer League championship. Hammon, 38, joined the Spurs’ coaching staff last offseason, after the Spurs plucked her from the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars roster. Hammon played point guard in the WNBA and in Europe for 16 years, developing a keen mind — and kindling a deep passion — for the game. She became the first female assistant coach in NBA history at the knee of Gregg Popovich, the winner of five NBA championships and unquestioned king of current NBA coaches.
In an ideal world, Becky Hammon would be celebrated only for her considerable ability as a basketball coach, nothing more and nothing less. The world we live in is far from ideal, and so Hammon must also be celebrated as an infiltrator of a male-dominated universe, a self-assured pioneer, a world-beater whether in high-tops or high heels. Becky Hammon is a woman and a winner. Someday, only one should matter. Right now, they both do.