Is it "Hammon time" in Los Angeles?
C/O San Antonio Spurs / NBA Media Images
Can Becky Hammon be the next Head Coach of the LA Clippers? Flashback to July of 2013 and Becky Hammon is still a prolific scorer in the WNBA, averaging 14 points per game while also putting up roughly 5 assists and 3 rebounds per game as well.
Then comes the crushing blow in a game against the Los Angeles Sparks, Hammon had torn her ACL and would be out for at least a year due to surgery and rehab. With knowing her playing time was coming to a closing and aspirations of getting into coaching after she retired, Hammon took her time in San Antonio to sit in on her fellow franchise NBA’s San Antonio Spurs practices, coaches meetings and more. Knowing the capabilities she had as a player and her mentality to be a student of the game, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich frequently asked her to contribute thoughts on what she saw.
After she did retire following the 2014 WNBA season, Popovich turned to Hammon and asked her to join his staff as an assistant coach. She would become just the 2nd female coach in NBA history, following Lisa Boyer who was an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers, 13 years earlier in 2001 for then head coach John Lucas.
Popovich re-announced Hammon to the media by saying, “I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. 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.”
Those sentiments were backed up by NBA Superstar Pau Gasol who in an open letter about female coaches opined that Hammon was a woman who “can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”
That’s a pretty bold and supportive statement!
In 2015, for a moment, we saw it come to fruition. Hammon was named by the Spurs as the Head Coach for their summer league team. So how did she do? The Spurs won the Las Vegas Summer League Title going 2-1 in the round-robin before knocking off the Nets, Celtics, Hawks and Suns in the playoffs to clinch the title. Hammon’s victory made her the first female coach to clinch any type of NBA award.
Since then, Hammon has continued to be a staple on the Spurs bench and a close confidant of Popovich. In the summer of 2017, she was even interviewed for the then vacant General Manager of the Milwaukee Bucks. While she was not considered as a finalist for the position, it only led to growth of her notoriety and respect in the NBA as one of the best basketball minds on the sidelines today.
The likelihood of Hammon leaving the Spurs bench for a head coaching job of her own seems to be only a matter of time. She has already been rumored as a possible candidate for the Indiana Pacers job, but the more interesting place for her might be the LA Clippers job, now vacated by the dismissal of Doc Rivers after 7 seasons and 3 conference final losses.
Hammon has a bit of familiarity with one leader of the Clip Show in that of Kawhi Leonard, who she coached during his time with the Spurs. She has knowledge of Western Conference competition through her seasons with the Spurs and playoff experience as San Antonio was a mainstay in the postseason, prior to this year’s awkward Pandemic Bubble completion. With the likelihood that former Rockets NBA Champion and current Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell may be headed to H-Town as the replacement for Mike D’Antoni, it becomes increasingly clear that Hammon should be headed to where her WNBA career closed to begin her NBA Head Coaching career.
It will be up to the decision of the Clippers front office and obviously that of owner Steve Balmer, though knowing Balmer’s propensity for breaking the mold and progressive mind, this is not a far fetched idea at all.