From the Spurs to the WNBA title: Becky Hammon, a pioneer’s journey

That Becky Hammon is the first “rookie” coach to lead her team to the WNBA title (3-1 victory in the final against the Connecticut Sun), three weeks after being voted “coach of the year”, is not very surprising. . Not so much, in the end, than watching his land on the bench of the Las Vegas Aces, in January: before making history in his own way at the end of the summer, he had already done it with men, in NBA. And his name has been associated with many franchises looking for their new head coach in the past seasons: the Portland Trailblazers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Orlando Magic, and others. In nothing to finally take the plunge. “I interviewed (in the NBA) and people said, ‘You just went to San Antonio’ ​​and ‘You’ve never been a head coach'”he emphasized at the time of his signing with Nevada, remembering how many jobs there are in the NBA “hard to get”.

First female full-time NBA assistant

Never mind: at 45, the passing seasons of the former leader of the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Silver Stars are out of the ordinary. First woman appointed full-time assistant in the NBA, in 2014, with Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, she was also the first to coach in an official meeting when the Texan coach was fired on December 30, 2020, against the Los Angeles Lakers (107-121).

“I understand the attention it’s getting, but in all honesty, I think most people already know he’s qualified to be an NBA head coach,” Popovich declared a few days later, in front of the influx of media at that time. “He’s inspiringconfirmed the French interior Darel Poirier (25), who participated under his orders in the Summer League with the Spurs in 2019. To be honest, I don’t really know his CV, I know that he worked in ”Pop”, that’s enough for me. He has a different energy, passion. We feel he knows his job, he knows the direction he wants to give the game.

Becky Hammon, with Gregg Popovich with the Spurs in March 2022. (S. Wachter/Presse Sports)

A rich playing career

His experience, Hammon not only pulled him from his eight (and even nine, because in 2013, then injured, he spent most of his time with the Spurs coach, unofficially as an assistant, before joining in 2014) years spent on Popovich’s staff, but also from a rich career as a player. Never having won a WNBA title despite playing in four finals, she nevertheless had six All Star Game selections, two top-five appearances in the season across the Atlantic and was the first – and only – San Antonio player who saw his jersey, the No. 25, withdrawn. All for a player who went undrafted in 1999. “As a player, he doesn’t set limits, describes Edwige Lawson-Wade (43 years old), 210 picks for the Blues and Hammon’s partner in 2005 and then between 2008 and 2010. He is small (1.68 m) but he can play post 2 as well as post 1. He can shoot two meters from the three-point line as well as shoot under the heads of the big guys. He is a player who has great confidence in himself and his teammates. What surprised me (sic) about him was how much he trusted me and the trust he gave me. I had the impression, sometimes, that he believed in me more than I believed in myself. »

Russian nationality and “treason”

An attitude that is necessary when accused of “betraying” one’s own country: Hammon always dreamed of competing in the Olympic Games and agreed, in 2008, to take the nationality of Russia – the country where he played – after seeing the Team USA’s door slamming in his face. “Life is very difficult, he has many insults, people talk to his family: it is not easy to play for Russia when he is a known American player. , testified Lawson-Wade. However, he did so in many classes. He is a very good teammate for the Russians who adore him: often, the players come to see us in San Antonio, Becky welcomes them warmly to her home. »

In the end it is this subtle paradox that seems to make Hammon unique, able to “ little buni playing hard, chewing his gum »and “an incredible person, who always welcomes the team to his home”, as revealed by Lawson-Wade, who insists: “It’s always been said that good things happen to good people: Becky, that’s exactly what it is. » The main interested party summed it up better than anyone, in four words, after the victory in the second game of the final: “I just did” (“just me”). And that, no one – and especially not those who closed the door in his face – was better than him.

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