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Old 03-11-15, 10:28 AM
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Meet Becky Hammon, the NBA's First Female Coach

She's the new secret weapon for the San Antonio spurs—and the first and only female coach in major American sports.



Eight years ago, Becky Hammon, then a star point guard for the WNBA team the San Antonio Stars, was at a crossroads. She'd made the All-Star team four times during her tenure in the WNBA, but she was fast losing sight of her dream to play in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Despite her successes—before joining the WNBA, she broke Colorado State's records for scoring, steals, and assists, earning the title of All-American three times—she had been largely overlooked by the U.S. Olympic team.

Undaunted and determined to play, Hammon still wound up on the Beijing court—but wearing a Russian jersey. While many female basketball players join overseas teams during the off-season to earn extra money, Hammon chose to apply for Russian citizenship and formally become a dual citizen. It stirred up plenty of flack back home, and also earned her a bronze medal (the U.S. won the gold). The Russian decision "laid a foundation for me to step out and be bold and do what I know is right to do," Hammon says. "Even if you take some crap."

Today, 37-year-old Hammon has made it to the top of an even steeper hill. As an assistant coach for the defending NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs, she's not only the first full-time female coach in the league, but also the first in all four major American professional sports (including baseball, football, and hockey).

A basketball-obsessed kid in South Dakota with bedroom walls plastered in Michael Jordan posters, Hammon once asked her dad if she'd ever be able to go pro. "He said, 'Sorry to shatter your dreams, but no,'" she recalls (the WNBA formed when Hammon was 19). "But he never said anything about coaching." Now, as one of six Spurs assistant coaches, she's involved in team operations from front to back: scouting opposing teams, giving the players feedback during practices, and strategizing plays. That analytical mind is what she's known for. At 5'6",

Hammon compensated for her height disadvantage while playing by developing a keen understanding of the game. "I was always smaller and slower than everybody else, so I had to figure out other ways to be successful," she says. "Some people can survive on their athleticism; I had to survive on my brain."

In 2012, on the flight home from the London Olympics, where she again played for Russia (although no medal this time), she switched seats to be next to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. The two felt an instant compatibility, talking during the entire trip about "pretty much everything but basketball," she recalls. So when Hammon suffered a knee injury the following year, she used her downtime to shadow the Spurs staff as a coaching intern, which laid the groundwork for her to join the team full-time.

After years of fighting her way into unlikely positions, Hammon is quick to brush off the idea that women have different coaching sensibilities, or that her gender is an issue. Despite the physical differences between the sexes, "skill-wise, there are some women who can compete with the guys: shooting, dribbling, passing, and the IQ stuff," she says. And on the court and in the locker room with the Spurs, she adds, "You're getting to know these guys as people, and as players. You have to develop a rapport. They give me a lot of respect." Still, the gravity of her position is starting to sink in. "It's 2015, and I'm the first female coach in any of the major sports," she says, laughing. "That's ridiculous!"

Link: Becky Hammon Interview - Coach Becky Hammon
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Old 03-11-15, 12:23 PM
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Another apple on Pop's prodigious coaching tree...
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Old 03-11-15, 02:06 PM
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The only thing I never liked about her was playing for Team Russia....twice! I understand she got shafted on the USA selection process but I'm sure she got "money" under the table to do that. Other than that I think she was a good player and a good basketball mind to bring too anyone's table. But that Olympic thing seemed very awkward. Other than that I like her.
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Old 03-11-15, 10:14 PM
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Great story! Here's to many good years with the Spurs!
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Old 03-12-15, 10:12 AM
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I cringed when she chose to play for Russia, because I knew she would get flack from the extreme nuts in this country. But I respected her decision. I'm very impressed with her drive.
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Old 03-12-15, 04:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uwe Blab View Post
I cringed when she chose to play for Russia, because I knew she would get flack from the extreme nuts in this country. But I respected her decision. I'm very impressed with her drive.
I would have been more okay with her playing for Russia IF she had some blood lines to that country or some ethnicity to that area. At first I thought she did but later I confirmed through the net she did not have any relation at all. Only her citizenship due to playing there which to me is a "BS" move. If she had let's say an ethnic background to let's just say Northern Ireland and played for them....I would zero issue with that due to her following her heritage after getting screwed over by the USA Women's selection committee. So yes it took some "stones" to do what she did but in my view and lots of other people's views....it came off as unpatriotic to compete against her own country for an unrelated country. It might seem I'm contradicting myself but the key part of the issue is the lack of "Russian" in her background except for her pro career there. She did get a screw job by Team USA officials. I do think everything else about her is outstanding. I'm just saying I couldn't do it unless I had a background with an origin with another country. I wasn't a fan of Bonner trying to get on Team Canada either. I mean it's not the same thing as what Becky endured. So I would have been more disappointed with him if he had played for them.
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