Jemelle Hill is the co-host of ESPN2’s Numbers Never Lie
No offense to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lured the best player in the world home, but the real winners of the NBA off-season were the San Antonio Spurs.
Of course, the Spurs won the postseason by beating the Miami Heat for the NBA title, but as big as that accomplishment was, the Spurs caused a monumental shift by hiring Becky Hammon as an assistant coach.
Technically, Hammon isn’t the first female to coach in the NBA.
That distinction belongs to Lisa Boyer, who was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ staff in the 2001-02 season, under head coach Jon Lucas.
Boyer worked part time for the Cavs and she wasn’t paid by the team. And no disrespect to Boyer or again, the Cavs, but Hammon’s hire is different.
Hammon will be a full-time paid assistant. She’ll also be learning from the best coach in the NBA in Gregg Poppovich, and under the umbrella of one of the classiest organizations in sports.
This means a lot for Hammon career, but also for women, overall. Hammon is opening the door for other women, and getting us that much closer to the NBA maybe having its first female head coach.
But while this is a historic hire, it’s not a symbolic one.
And let me explain the difference.
A symbolic hire would imply that the Spurs are a charity. Becky Hammon wasn’t hired because she’s a woman. She was hired because she is respected and qualified. And the Spurs are doing what has earned them five championships — put themselves in the best position to win.
Becky Hammon is a 16-year WNBA vet. In fact, she’s considered to be one of the best WNBA players of all time.
It just so happens that while she was rehabbing from a knee injury last year in San Antonio, she attended a lot of the Spurs’ practices and film sessions — all voluntarily.
She did what plenty of men do. She paid her dues and used her network to get a job.
Now I know there are going to be some out there that wonder how, and if, a woman can coach men.
Certainly, there are physical differences that prevent women from doing some of the things that men can do, but last I checked, gender has got nothing to do with basketball IQ or the ability to lead.
Men coach women all the time. And I don’t recall anyone ever wondering if UConn coach Geno Auriemma has the chops to coach women.
I’m not at all concerned about Becky Hammon gaining the respect of the Spurs players. If she didn’t have that, Pop wouldn’t have hired her.
My only worry about Becky Hammon is this, I just hope Pop doesn’t teach her how to conduct sideline interview.
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