- Becky Hammon became the first woman head coach in NBA history Wednesday night.
- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter of San Antonio’s game against the Lakers, and he pointed at Hammon to hand her the reins.
- LeBron James said it was “beautiful to watch” Hammon make history and added that “she’s been great ever since she got in” the league.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Becky Hammon is used to making history, but even she acknowledged that the milestone she hit Wednesday night qualified as “a substantial moment.”
After Gregg Popovich was ejected during the second quarter of the Spurs’ game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the legendary San Antonio head coach handed over the reins to Hammon, rendering her the first woman head coach in NBA history.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
“Obviously, it’s a big deal,” Hammon said after the game, per ESPN. “I’ve been a part of this organization, I got traded here in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the Stars and everything for 13 years. So I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me, in building me and getting me better.”
LeBron James, who was playing against Hammon’s Spurs Wednesday night, said it was “a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets” at the AT&T Center.
“She’s been putting in the work, and any time you put in the work, you get rewarded with opportunities,” James said. “Tonight was a case where she got to step in and show her work, show her talents and her love for the game, and obviously, what she did as a player, first of all, we all know that. So her mind was able to transfer to our league, and she’s been great ever since she got in.”
“She’s very passionate about the game, so congrats to her and congrats to the league,” James added.
Becky Hammon warms up with players prior to a Spurs game.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Hammon overtook head coaching responsibilities upon Popovich’s ejection, which came after the 71-year-old snapped at a referee over a no-call with just under four minutes remaining in the second quarter. So with San Antonio trailing by 11, Pop pointed at Hammon to signal the historic passing of the torch and “said, ‘You got ’em,’ and that was it.”
“Very Pop-like,” Hammon added.
Though the Spurs went on to lose 121-107 to the reigning champions, Hammon rallied her team to cut the Lakers’ lead to five later in the second quarter and to less than 10 multiple times throughout the second half. Though the former WNBA star acknowledged that “the guys responded great” to her assuming head coaching responsibilities, she admitted that she “would have loved to have walked out of there with the win.”
Becky Hammon (right) coaches alongside San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
But the 43-year-old should have plenty more opportunities to lead NBA teams to victory, at least according to one of the winningest coaches in NBA history.
“Obviously, I think very much of her abilities having hired her,” Popovich said before Wednesday night’s game. “That all began when I saw her play. She was a leader, everybody on the team reacted to her, she was very confident, very competitive, and she led the whole show. And when I got to know her, and she was in our coaches meetings before she was hired… we found out about her knack for the game, her innate understanding of what wins, what loses, what has to be there to make a program.”
“She’s got all of the tools necessary to be a heck of a coach in our league,” he added.
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