If, without telling you their name, someone told you that an NBA coaching candidate was a celebrated former player, one of the best ever at their position; had apprenticed under one of the best head coaches in NBA history; and was now looking for a job to prove themselves as a head coach in their own right, what would you say?
If you’re a fan of a team like the Pistons, Raptors or Hawks, all of whom are looking for a new coach, you might say, “I wish my team would hire that guy.”
Well, “that guy” is Becky Hammon.
Hammon is one of the best guards the WNBA has ever seen, a six-time All-Star with the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars who hit nearly 90 percent of her free throws and 37.8 percent of her three-point shots. She stands eighth all-time in points scored in the history of professional women’s basketball.
She apprenticed under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs after her playing career was done, and it is in that role where she found an advocate whose opinion ought to carry some weight.
The advocate is Pau Gasol.
Gasol, who should know a thing or two about what constitutes a great NBA coach, having played not only for Popovich but also for Phil Jackson on the Lakers, says that “Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”
Gasol, writing for The Players’ Tribune, elaborated on up that argument.
“But if you think I’m writing this to argue why Becky is qualified to be an NBA head coach … well, you’re mistaken,” Gasol wrote. “That part is obvious: One, she was an accomplished player — with an elite point guard’s mind for the game. And two, she has been a successful assistant for arguably the greatest coach in the game. What more do you need?”
Hammon is currently interviewing for the Milwaukee Bucks’ head coaching vacancy, as the team appears hesitant to promote interim coach Joe Prunty after Prunty led the team to a seven-game first-round playoff exit against the Boston Celtics.
She is the first woman to interview for an NBA head coaching position.
Hammon is in an interesting position; wherever she goes, she will be a pioneer, but if she is dropped into a bad situation, fans may not be as patient with her efforts to turn the team around as they would be if a team were to hire someone like Steve Clifford or Mike Budenholzer, late of the Hornets and Hawks, respectively.
Furthermore, it is something of an open question whether Hammon’s best course of action is to step out of Popovich’s shadow now or potentially wait for her mentor to retire and be the heir apparent in San Antonio, a city where she has ties after playing professionally there.
If irony is more your thing, maybe she should be coaching in Portland; after all, she’s going to be a trailblazer no matter what.
Bottom line, whichever team decides to employ Hammon’s services will get a coach who understands the game, played it at an elite level, learned the coaching side of it from the best and will come prepared every night.
And Gasol’s endorsement only further bolsters her case for the job.
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