Becky Hammon Makes NBA History As The 1st Paid Female Asst. Coach

becky-hammon

Attention all NBA fans, get familiar with this face. Her name is Becky Hammon, and she just made history by becoming the first ever female to be paid by the NBA during regular season. She has been hired as the San Antonio Spurs’ Assistant Coach, which means she is joining the five-time NBA Champions after the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in the 2013-2014 playoffs.

This powerhouse is no stranger to the world of basketball, having played for the WNBA for two decades, including for the San Antonio Stars.

Of course this is big news, given that female coaches are very rare in the world of NBA. The gravity of her new role is not lost on 37 year-old Becky, but said to the press she is determined to let her basketball knowledge stand out, not just her gender.

“I know Coach Pop has made it very clear to me that I’m being hired because of my basketball IQ and because I’m qualified,” Hammon said. “He said, ‘It just so happens you are a woman, but I’m hiring you because of your IQ and your personal relationship skills.’ I’m just grateful that they see something in me that fits in with them and their organization.”

“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “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.”

While Becky is the first officially paid female in a coaching position in the NBA, she is not the first woman. Lisa Boyer was an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001-02, but didn’t travel to away games and wasn’t paid by the Cavaliers. She was paid by the Cleveland Rockers of the WNBA. Lisa shared her thoughts and encouragement about Becky’s hire.

“Congratulations to Becky on today’s announcement. It’s a great thing for her and for the NBA,” she said on Tuesday August 5th when the announcement was made.

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Think Progress point out that Becky’s new job is not just significant in the world of basketball, but in major league sport in the US in general.

“None of the four major sports leagues — Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Hockey League, in addition to the NBA — currently feature any women as players or coaches, and only the NBA employs women as referees.”

Mississippi woman Sarah Thomas is predicted to be the first female NFL referee in the upcoming 2014-2014 season, which would be major news when the season kicks off. Further afield, it seems there are women around the world who don’t see a male-dominated sport as a reason to shrink back. In June, Pete Searle became the first female coach in the Australian Football League (AFL), and was appointed to be the new development coach for the St. Kilda Football Club.

In France, an announcement was made back in May that Helena Costa would serve as the first female manager of a men’s soccer team, second division team Clermont.

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Back at home in the United States, the news of Becky Hammon being hired by the Spurs as assistant coach follows hotly on the heels of another woman pushing the barriers in basketball. Natalie Nakase, 34, was actually the first female assistant coach to be hired by the NBA (for the Los Angeles Clippers), but she was hired for the summer league, not the regular season. However, this is not the last we will see of her.

She was the first head coach in Japanese men’s professional basketball, coaching the Saitama Broncos, and the first Asian American to play in the National Women’s professional basketball league in the United States. Natalie is also the only video coordinator in NBA history, but she is determined to make coach in the regular NBA season, and head coach at that! The offer to coach the summer league came as a surprise to her, but it was a chance she didn’t think twice about taking.

Natalie, like Becky and many other female trailblazers in typically male-dominated sports, has had to develop thick skins given that sexism isn’t exactly extinct just yet. But for the most part, she has been well-received by the men on the team.

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“For them, there’s a shock value. Maybe it will take a little bit longer for some guys to understand that they have to listen to a woman, but to be honest these guys were great,” she says talking about her experience with the Clippers. “I think the respect is right there. I feel like I’m very, very passionate about the game and think that’s what guys feel.”

While she will return to the video room when the regular 2014-2015 season begins again, she has had a taste of what is possible and more than ever knows the meaning of “never give up.”

“I don’t ever think anything’s too big,” Nakase said. “I think anyone can do anything they want to do as long as they stay focused and they just keep trying. A lot of times when people go after their goals as soon as they see slight setbacks or failure, they’ll stop. But my dad kind of instilled in me like a keep going, keep trying, keep trying [mentality] and it’s just something that I really love doing. And when you really love doing something you’re just going to keep trying no matter what.”

Good advice. We couldn’t have put it any better! Three cheers to Natalie and Becky who no doubt will be the first few in a long line of women to break gender barriers in the NBA and other sports.

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8 Comments

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