San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich did not speak much on his team at Team USA Basketball’s minicamp, but he broke this to provide praise for a prominent assistant coach.
Becky Hammon has ascended up the San Antonio Spurs bench these past few seasons, since joining Gregg Popovich’s staff in 2014. This summer saw her take another step forward, however, when Popovich promoted the former WNBA player to the head assistant spot on his staff. That happened after James Borrego left to become the Charlotte Hornets head coach.
At Wednesday and Thursday’s Team USA Basketball minicamp, which Popovich helms as the head coach, he did not answer questions on the Spurs. However, this was broken with a question on Hammon.
According to Tom Orsborn of MySanAntonio.com, Popovich provided high praise for Hammon, calling her “a special, special woman.” He also explained her position on the team’s bench next season:
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“She’s a special, special woman,” Popovich said. “You know we promoted her again. She’s going to be on the front of the bench now, sitting next to me. She’s not behind the bench anymore. She’s on the bench because J.B. Borrego took the head job in Charlotte. So she’s replacing him. That’s how much I think of her.”
“She knows her stuff,” he said. “She’s confident. The he-she thing doesn’t fit at all. She’s a coach, and just happens to be a she. That’s it. If it was a he, and more qualified, I would have hired a he. But this she was qualified, and that’s who I wanted.”
From what Popovich said, it did not matter if this was a man or woman; he knows Hammon’s talents as a coach and rewarded her with a main spot on the bench, taking Borrego’s spot. It’s something no other female has received in the NBA, so the opportunity is unique.
Hammon looked to go one step further this summer, and placed her name in the head coach conversation with the Milwaukee Bucks. This was another first-time-ever situation, even though the Bucks did not hire her and chose Mike Budenholzer.
Hammon receives a larger role on a team that no longer features Kawhi Leonard, but includes DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills. All are veterans learning from another person who played basketball for 13 years.
From 1999-2014, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars, averaging 13 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. She appeared in six WNBA All-Star games.