After spending eight years as an assistant coach for Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, an NBA head coaching gig seemed inevitable for Becky Hammon. But though the WNBA legend interviewed with multiple teams, she never was offered a job.
Instead, Hammon took over as head coach of the Las Vegas Aces in 2022. She ended up winning a title in her first season at the helm.
And when the Aces hoisted their championship trophy, Hammon had a message when asked about the NBA franchises that passed on her.
“For me, it’s not really about proving other people wrong,” she said. “It’s about proving myself right.”
Still, Hammon is not hesitating to call out the NBA for not giving women more opportunities among the league’s coaching ranks.
She spoke about the issue at the espnW Women + Sports Summit on Wednesday, where she was announced as an NBA analyst for ESPN for the 2022-23 season — a role she’ll add on top of her coaching duties with the Aces.
Hammon said those making decisions in the NBA are too scared to hire a woman because they see it as a risk. And yet they choose under-qualified men to fill positions.
“Some guys, there’s multiple examples, they just walk right into a head-coaching position,” she said. “They’ve never coached a day in their life. It’s not that easy. If it is that easy, everybody would be doing it.”
In total, 16 women have coached in the NBA, all in assistant coach positions. And while Hammon hopes change is coming, she’s not sure when that will happen.
“In some ways, I feel like it could happen in the next one to two years,” she said. “In other ways, I’m like, ‘You’re so far off. This is like, 10 to 15 years away.’”
For Hammon, the decision to stop seeking out NBA gigs and shift to the WNBA – a league where she was a star player for many years – was an easy one.
It was about finding a team with the tools to win a title, she said after the Aces were crowned in September. She also wanted a franchise that recognized her skills – something Las Vegas was excited about from the moment it started pursuing her.
“I don’t need so-and-so to tell me I’m a good coach,” Hammon said Wednesday. “I don’t need somebody’s stamp of approval.”