When San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected from the team’s game Wednesday night, assistant coach Becky Hammon stepped in and made history. She became the first female to act as head coach during an NBA regular-season game.
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Popovich was ejected with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter of San Antonio’s 121-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Obviously, it’s a big deal, it’s a substantial moment,” Hammon told the media after the game. “I’ve been a part of this organization — I got traded here [to the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars] in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the Stars and everything for 13 years. So, I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me in building me and getting me better.”
Becky Hammon took over head coaching duties for the Spurs after Pop was ejected.
She is the first woman to serve as head coach in an NBA game. pic.twitter.com/Cp8r0Sj0w3
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 31, 2020
The 43-year-old became the NBA’s first female assistant coach when she joined the Spurs’ staff in 2014, and two years ago she became the first woman to interview for an NBA head-coaching job.
Popovich discussed Hammon prior to Wednesday’s game.
“Obviously, I think very much of her abilities having hired her. That all began when I saw her play,” Popovich said. “She was a leader, everybody on the team reacted to her, she was very confident, very competitive and she led the whole show. And when I got to know her and she was in our coaches meetings before she was hired, while she was hurt after the season, we found out about her knack for the game, her innate understanding of what wins, what loses, what has to be there to make a program. So, she’s got all of the tools necessary to be a heck of a coach in our league.”
Hammon played her college ball at Colorado State, which also considered her for its men’s head-coaching job in 2018, before a 16-year WNBA playing career during which she was a six-time All-Star. She retired in 2014 to accept the San Antonio assistant-coaching job.
Hammon is also a woman of strong faith. According to the New Yorker, Hammon gave her life to Christ at the age of 7, and her family attended church in South Dakota every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. Her mother, Bev, thought she’d become a minister or a missionary.
Though she went on to a successful and groundbreaking career in basketball, Hammon’s faith gives her “courage and comfort.”
“You can’t separate the two,” she said of her faith and basketball. “It would be like trying to strain my white blood cells from my red blood cells. It would be like trying to separate my personality from my soul.”
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