Amidst criticism after reports of Becky Hammon, a San Antonio Spurs assistant coach and former WNBA player, interviewing for a head-coaching gig, Pau Gasol spoke out in her defense.
Earlier in May, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that San Antonio Spurs assistant coach, Becky Hammon, will interview to become head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Hammon is the first female to interview for an NBA head coach job.
Hammon’s step towards breaking barriers has not come without criticism, however, as Pounding the Rock noted. Radio host Mike Francesca and ESPN’s Amin Elhassan rank among the most prominent names to speak against the former WNBA player’s candidacy, and for a variety of reasons.
What matters is Hammon could get the chance to become a head coach, and there are people in support of this. Pau Gasol, who has played under her coaching since 2016, wrote an open letter on The Players Tribune to defend her candidacy:
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“First, I’ve just gotta tell you: If you’re making that argument [coaching in the NBA vs. the WBNA] to anyone who’s actually played any high-level basketball, you’re going to seem really ignorant. But I also have a simple response to it — which is that I’ve been in the NBA for 17 years. I’ve won two championships … I’ve played with some of the best players of this generation … and I’ve played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. And I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”
That’s straight to the point from Gasol, a primary source of information from the past few years. He worked with Hammon and has seen plenty in the NBA since 2001, with the evolution of the league and its impact. A female head coach would only be the next part of that, even as the Spaniard heads into his age-38 season.
Hammon might not coach the Bucks since she’s against other candidates, including another Spurs assistant, and it’s only her first interview. It may not be her last, either, and with each sitdown, she has with an NBA team, the greater chance there is at the first female head coach in league history.
The Toronto Raptors position recently opened and the Orlando Magic still do not have a head coach. While neither have been reported as landing spots for Hammon, never say never for them to at least speak with her. If not them, then it’s a wait-and-see situation for the 2019 offseason, which could be the opportunity if the right job opens.