Wednesday represented a watershed moment in professional hoops with Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to serve as acting coach in an NBA game. The WNBA alum took over the Spurs’ head coaching reigns from Gregg Popovich after he was ejected for arguing a call with a little under four minutes remaining in the second quarter. Hammon, who has served as an assistant under Popovich since 2014, has coached the Spurs in Summer League games before but never in the regular season.
“He officially pointed at me,” said Hammon via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, describing the moment when Popovich tapped her as his replacement. “Said, ‘You got em,’ and that was it. Very Pop-like.” Tim Duncan took over under similar circumstances when Popovich was ejected from a game in 2019, though the two-time NBA MVP is no longer on San Antonio’s staff.
While obviously honored to be a part of history, Hammon insists her sole focus was on stopping the Lakers, who ultimately pulled out a 121-107 victory on the Spurs’ home floor. “In the moment, I was just trying to win the game,” said the 43-year-old, downplaying her accomplishment. “It’s my job to go in there and be focused for those guys and make sure that I’m helping them do the things that will help them win.”
There was speculation earlier this year of Popovich, who recently put his house up for sale, potentially leaving his long-time post with San Antonio to pursue other opportunities (he was linked to the Nets’ opening before Brooklyn hired Steve Nash), though obviously nothing came of those rumblings. Many envision Hammon, who interviewed for Milwaukee’s head-coaching vacancy in 2018 (she lost out to Mike Budenholzer), as Pop’s eventual successor in the Alamo City.
Hammon, a six-time WNBA All-Star who has competed internationally for both the United States and Russia (where she became a naturalized citizen in 2008), is one of eight active female assistant coaches in the NBA, joining Jenny Boucek (Kings), Lindsay Gottlieb (Cavaliers), Lindsey Harding (Kings), Natalie Nakase (Clippers), Sonia Raman (Grizzlies), Kristi Toliver (Wizards) and Teresa Weatherspoon (Pelicans).