When taking the health and safety risk into account, the San Antonio Spurs should have assistant Becky Hammon take Gregg Popovich’s place in July.
The unfortunate reality of the situation our world faces in the middle of 2020 is that things aren’t what we thought they might be just a few months ago. Everyone had some sort of plan for how this year would look but given the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, the world has been forced to adjust their expectations. The same can be said of the San Antonio Spurs and in turn, head coach Gregg Popovich.
It’s well known that age is a major component in determining a person’s risk to coronavirus exposure and Popovich turned 71 at the end of January. Even with the assumption that the league will resume in quarantine at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, that’s still too much of a risk.
Granted, Coach Pop can make that decision for himself, and if he decides that he wants to coach then who’s going to stop him? However, it’s a big risk to take, even if the league is taking as much precaution as it possibly can. I propose that Pop hands over the reins to assistant coach Becky Hammon, making her the first woman to assume the role of head coach in NBA history.
Hammon is 28 years younger than Pop and remains the most likely assistant coach on the team to eventually assume that head coaching position. While Tim Duncan has an incredible track record as a player-coach and leader for this Spurs organization, he’s only spent three-quarters of a season on the sideline in this position. The same can be said of assistant Will Hardy, who was only just promoted to his current positions after years as a video coordinator for the silver and black.
Though no formal plan about his next steps has been set in place, at least as far as the public knows, Popovich is nearing retirement as he continues aging and the team takes a new direction. Having Hammon step in as the head coach during these games would be a fun way to get her feet wet as the person most likely to assume Pop’s role when he hangs it up.
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More so than anything, this is about preserving the health and safety of Popovich in these trying times. Prioritizing basketball over health and safety isn’t something the league is going to be interested in and considering the Spurs’ family values, they’ll likely want to put Pop’s safety first as well.
Given the array of technological advantages that we have in the modern era, Popovich can still effectively coach his team in many senses. All it takes is a Zoom call for the assistants and players to pick the head coach’s brain and most of the big-time business decisions can run through him without having him located in Orlando.
For as strenuous as these times may be, there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to come of it once the curve is flattened. For the NBA, it’ll provide a chance at trying new things and letting people who wouldn’t normally get chances at new positions try them out.
Putting Becky in the driver’s seat will give her a chance to prove herself as Popovich’s successor while maintaining the health and safety of the man responsible for the Spurs’ dynasty.