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The NBA has had its share of coaching carousels similar to what the NFL just experienced last week when eight men (five of them black) lost their jobs and were replaced — quickly — by mostly young, inexperienced white men.
While the NFL is known for its lack of diversity with their head coaches, the NBA hasn’t fared much better as year after year, the question seemingly arises of: Where are the black head coaches?
This lack of diversity in a league comprised of over 70 percent black players is shocking. The NBA can take a drastic step forward by ensuring one current, and viable candidate gets their shot soon.
That person is San Antonio Spurs assistant, Becky Hammon.
Hammon is a 16-year vet of the WNBA (1999-2006 with New York Liberty; 2007-2014 with San Antonio Stars) where she was a six-time All-Star, and largely recognized as one of the greatest players of all time. A San Antonio legend with the Stars, Hammon is the Stars all-time leader in assists (1,112) and three-point field goals made (493), while ranking second in franchise history in points (3,442) and games (218).
After a successful career in which she averaged 13.9 points and 3.8 assists per game, she was immediately hired by Gregg Popovich to serve on the Spurs’ staff. Prior to Hammon being appointed to Popovich’s staff, she regularly attended Spurs’ practices the season before after missing the entire WNBA season due to torn ACL.
Upon being impressed with Hammon’s knowledge and work ethic, Popovich felt it a no-brainer to add someone of Hammon’s pedigree to his staff.
Popovich said this during a press conference speaking of Hammon and her hiring. “I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”
While her playing career alone is enough to warrant a job itself similar to those such as Jason Kidd and Derek Fisher — both with zero coaching experience prior to landing jobs with the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks respectively — Hammon has logged five years under Popovich.
Let’s not forget the 2015 NBA Summer League where Popovich elevated her to head coach and she led that team to a title.
What was most impressive about that stint was the command Hammon had over the team. She looked like a head coach. She talked like a head coach. And, she galvanized an entire unit and made them believe they could accomplish a goal they set out from the start of the summer — and they did.
Hammon did not get a job in the NBA under Popovich because she is a woman. She got the job because she was the best person for the position, and she was highly qualified for it. She further proved this by continuing to gain the respect of her peers and the players as an individual who is more than capable of getting the job done.
The NBA has made attempts in being progressive. They pulled out of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2016 due to the HB2 Law that was initially passed. They have gone out of their way (albeit slowly at times) to listen to the players’ concerns as it relates to their health and safety, and have reduced the number of back-to-back games for the past two seasons.
Now, it is time for one team and owner to continue to blaze the trail that Popovich started by bringing Hammon in as the leader of their franchise.