Becky Hammon made history on Wednesday, December 30, as she became the first woman to ever coach an NBA team during the regular season.
Her coaching opportunity occurred after San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected during the second quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hammon, who already broke barriers after becoming the first full-time female assistant coach on an NBA team in 2014, was then given the reigns and took over head coaching duties.
Hammon is the First
While this moment may not seem like a big deal to some, it is a monumental achievement for women trying to make a name for themselves in the male sports world.
Following the game on Wednesday night, Hammon told reporters she while she recognizes how important this moment is, her focus has always been on the game.
“Honestly, in the moment, I was just trying to win the game. I say this a lot but I try not to think about the huge picture and the huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming,” she shared.
“It’s my job to go in there and be focused for those guys and make sure that I’m helping them do the things that will make us win. I really have had no time to reflect. I haven’t looked at my phone. So, I have no idea what’s going on outside of AT&T Center tonight.”
Breaking Down Barriers
Hammon has been a student of the game for decades. After picking up the game as a child, she played collegiately at Colorado State before beginning her WNBA career in 1999. She played over a decade in the league, as well as a number of years overseas, and then started her coaching career with the Spurs in 2014.
Male coaches have had absolutely no problem entering the women’s sports world, so why has it taken so long for a woman to coach a men’s team? Look at Geno Auriemma, head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, or Vlatko Andonovski, the head coach of the United States Women’s Soccer Team.
These are two men who have had great success in coaching women’s teams and we don’t think twice about it, yet it’s taken so long for any woman to have an opportunity on the men’s side.
Inspiration For Young Girls
I grew up loving Kansas men’s basketball and even told one of my teachers in elementary school that I wanted to grow up to be the Kansas men’s basketball coach. The only problem? I had never seen a woman coach a Division I college team. I didn’t know my dream would even be possible because I had never seen it done before.
Hammon being in charge of a men’s professional team, even if just for two and a half quarters, is breaking down barriers for women all over the country who are hoping to do the same someday.
There are little girls out there right now who love the NBA and now realize they can coach a team someday. In fact, in about 10 or 15 years I’m almost positive we’ll see female coaches in the NBA who were inspired by Hammon’s trailblazing achievements.
Yes, Popovich will return for the Spurs next game and Hammon will go back to being an assistant coach. But for those two and a half quarters on Wednesday night, a woman was in charge of an NBA basketball team. And you know what? That’s pretty cool.