As the NBA Season wrapped up with the Lakers winning the Larry O’Brien like we all knew they would, the NBA Coaching Carousel was already in full spin.
Steve Nash was hired by the Brooklyn Nets to lead the East’s newest title contender with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Doc Rivers didn’t stay unemployed for too long as the Sixers snapped him up as their latest addition to whatever part of “The Process” this is. Possibly the most incredible was the Clippers hiring of Ty Lue. Can LeBron’s old coach provide the “guidance” and “leadership” needed to make Playoff P and Kawhi NBA Champions? I don’t know. Probably not?
As these hiring came in one by one, each being dissected by pundits and talking heads, one name seemed to be mentioned in passing at almost every turn. With one name that happened to be on every interview list, every NBA team seemed to be dipping their toe in the water.
Becky Hammon was being looked at for NBA Head Coaching positions but hasn’t inked a deal yet. Why?
Look, there’s the obvious nonsense that some idiots will most likely push which is “sHe’S a WoMaN, sHe CaN’t CoAcH iN tHe NbA!” That’s stupid because a) she can, b) she has, c) shut up with that 1950s rhetoric, you moron.
Hammon is the second female assistant coach in NBA history and the first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history. Not one to adhere to limits, Hammon is also the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major professional sports in North America. So it’s not like she had the ability, she already had the resumé.
The less obvious reason, and the one we’re going to be talking about, is that she might already have one.
Earlier this week, the City of San Antonio unveiled a mural honoring Hammon. The mural depicts a young girl, with a basketball tucked under her arm, looking up at the city and at Hammon. Written in the sky above her are the words “Never Stop.”
Becky Hammon was drafted by the New York Liberty in the early days of the WNBA. After a successful run with the Liberty, Hammon was traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars. Moving from the Liberty to the Stars had to be a culture shock for Hammon. The Liberty were a WNBA playoff regular, whereas the Stars were in the middle of a rebuild, with Hammon as their centerpiece.
Within a year, the Stars were not only a winning team, but they were the best team in the WNBA, fighting their way to the WNBA Finals in 2008. Becky Hammon would finish her career in San Antonio, cementing herself as an integral part of the WNBA’s history and in the San Antonio sports landscape.
Her second round in the San Antonio sports world came when Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich brought her onto his coaching staff as an assistant, and that’s where we are today.
And I think there’s weight to the idea that Popovich has already picked a successor.
It’s happened before, that a prolific head coach brings up their successor within their coaching tree. Most notably, Bill Parcells had it written into his deal with the Jets that should he retire Bill Belichick would immediately take over. A prolific coach handing the reigns to their heir-apparent when their time is over.
That might sound insane, but there’s one more piece to this theory and it involves another San Antonio legend: Tim Duncan.
On March 3, 2020, the Spurs were in Charlotte to face the Hornets, with one notable missing piece. Popovich would not be at the game, leaving an opening for an interim head coach for the night. Instead of Hammon, who has been with the Spurs for six years and coached in the Summer League, Pop chose Duncan.
The Spurs legend had recently been hired by Pop as an assistant, so most fans were left scratching their heads as to why Duncan was chosen. In his post-game interviews, Duncan dodged questions about the decision. This led talking heads to muse about whether or not Duncan was the heir apparent to Pop’s head coach post.
He’s not. There’s no way. No other coach on his staff understands the way he coaches like Hammon. More importantly, no one has constantly pointed out blindspots for Pop. It’s not Duncan, it’s Hammon. That head coaching game is all a part of Pop’s plan.
Coach Popovich has always been a man who believes in doing what’s right. Known for standing up for the marginalized, and being vocal about his beliefs, Pop knows how to handle important moments. He also knows about giving people what’s coming to them, be it an endorsement or a tongue-lashing.
This Duncan coaching handoff is no different.
To give Hammon that one game in Charlotte as her moment would have been unfair for a multitude of reasons. If she loses, her decisions get scrutinized as if it were a Finals game. She wins, and this small scale achievement is paraded around for weeks. That’s not what Pop wants.
Becky Hammon’s career as an NBA Coach is not a gimmick or a circus stunt. It’s legitimate to the point that she’s ahead of legends like Tim Duncan for jobs.
When it comes to NBA Head Coach searches, Becky Hammon’s name is always on the list. But it’s more than likely that she’s already at the top of the future list for Pop’s replacement.
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