The San Antonio Spurs hired WNBA star Becky Hammon on Tuesday, making her the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff.
Hammon, 37, who plans to retire from the San Antonio Stars after this season, spent time working with coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs last season and made a strong impression on a team with a history of forward-thinking moves.
Last season, Hammon attended Spurs practices, film sessions and sat behind the bench for the NBA champions at the home game this season. She's been friends with Spurs teammates Tony Parker
and Tim Duncan since competing in an NBA All-Star shooting competition in 2008.
"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff," Popovich said. "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."
The Spurs are coming off their fifth NBA title, a decisive victory over the Miami Heat in June. The organization's stature as the league's gold standard may lead other women who have long dreamed of coaching in the NBA to hope that this is the first major step toward bringing more women into the league.
During the 2001-02 season, Lisa Boyer worked with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a volunteer assistant coach. She worked with the coaches and players that season, but was not paid by the team and did not travel with them.
"I was so excited and pleased and the one thing that people have to remember is that the San Antonio Spurs don't do anything for effect," said Nancy Lieberman, a former star player who was a head coach in the NBA Development League in 2009 and now serves as the general manager of the Texas Legends. "That's not who they are. They don't do this for the record-breaking barrier. They do things out of respect."
"And the fact that coach Popovich has this much respect for Becky's basketball IQ, for how she handles herself with the guys in practice, her ability to relate to them, I'm sure he saw so much when she was working with them last fall. I'm sure he didn't hire her because she was a woman. I'm sure he hired her because she was the best person for the job."
"This will open the door for other women, even like myself," Lieberman said. "My goal is to coach in the NBA and you've got to start somewhere. So this is a great day."