By Paul Garcia
Cross posted from ProjectSpurs.com.
With Tuesday’s news of the San Antonio Spurs hiring WNBA Stars guard Becky Hammon as an assistant coach with the Spurs next season, Hammon herself fielded questions from the media in a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
Here were some of the primary topics from Hammon’s call.
Hammon on how she feels and the challenges ahead
“It’s a tremendous challenge, it comes with tremendous responsibility,” said Hammon of being hired as an assistant coach with the Spurs, who are going to begin the season as the defending NBA champions.
“This is a great challenge for me,” continued Hammon of being one of the first women to go into the NBA coaching circle, as a full-time assistant, “and I want to grow from my experiences. This is big. I hope little girls can say, ‘hey look, people can do what they put their minds to.’”
“It’s too early to tell the kind of impact it’s going to have, we’ll take it day-by-day,” said Hammon of how this move will shape the future of women in sports.
“I’ll do my best and work my tail off,” said Hammon of the new challenge going from the WNBA as a player, to the NBA as an assistant coach. “I’m the person that often is left off the roster,” said Hammon of how in her past, she’s usually had to work to earn everything, and she was never one of the first to be presented an opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to learning from these guys and being a sponge,” continued Hammon of joining the Spurs’ coaching staff.
On what Popovich told her about the situation
Hammon said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told her the decision to hire her was solely for basketball reasons, and had nothing to do with her gender: “I’m being hired because of my basketball IQ and personal relationship skills.”
“I’m hiring you because you’re a good fit,” is what Hammon said Popovich told her, “you just happen to be a woman.”
How the idea of Hammon joining the Spurs’ coaching staff came into place
“This whole thing came when I blew out my knee,” said Hammon of the initial stages of going into coaching. “It allowed me to stay here. That conversation happened with me and Coach Hughes.”
Hammon said she asked Coach Hughes if Popovich and Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford would allow her into the Spurs’ practices, and they agreed, and allowed her more access than she initially was looking for.
“Can you ask Coach Pop and R.C. if I can poke my head in,” said Hammon of her first conversations of learning from the Spurs last season in their circles. “Come over here, come to our coaching meetings,” is what Popovich and Buford told her, according to Hammon. “They’ve been observing me obviously for a while as a basketball player.”
“We had made plans to talk midway through the season,” said Hammon of when her becoming an assistant coach was looking like a realistic option.
As for which side had the idea of bringing Hammon in as a coach, Hammon said there were already early thoughts from both sides. “I think it was a mixture of both. I know they had been talking about it. ‘We love her mind for the game, we love how she interacts with her teammates.’”
“Last year I was doing somewhat of an internship,” said Hammon of spending time with the Spurs. “They decided, this can work.”
Hammon said the Spurs and Stars run a lot of the same things “system-wise”, so that was a part of the game she knew the two sides already had a connection through.
“Creating those relationships, chit-chatting. They brought me on a road trip and saw how I interacted with people,” said Hammon of some of the other elements the Spurs noticed in her.
On her upcoming roles and responsibilities as an assistant coach
“I’ll be doing things that all the other assistants do,” said Hammon of her roles and responsibilities. “Scheming, scouting reports.”
Hammon said the two areas she’s really looking forward to are film study and scouting. “That’s a part of the game that I’ve always loved. I’m going to enjoy those sessions for sure.” Hammon also noted that Popovich likes his staff to be open and throw out new ideas as well.
On whether she’s heard from any of the current Spurs players
I asked Hammon if she’s received any congratulatory messages from current Spurs players, and if she built a relationship with any of them from her past in San Antonio. “I have a great friendship with Tony (Parker),” said Hammon. “I’ve heard from a couple of wives of players. I’ve built a good relationship with them. I’m excited to get into the mix. Not many of them have my phone number,” said Hammon as for why she hasn’t heard from other Spurs players.
On whether broadcasting was an option post-retirement
“I always knew it was going to be TV or coaching,” said Hammon of her decisions post-retirement. “Coaching is just a very natural marriage.”
“I’m up for challenges, I’m up for being outside the box,” said Hammon of why she chose coaching over broadcasting. “I’m a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. The whole experience is incredibly humbling at the same time.”
Hammon on if women can play or coach in the NBA
For Hammon, she felt women could not play in the NBA in the future because, “the guys are too big and too strong.” However when it comes to coaching, Hammon mentioned how “it comes to the mind.”
“People need to be hired because they’re qualified and are able beings,” said Hammon of why she feels regardless of gender, women have the ability to coach.