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How Aces coach Becky Hammon got her start with Gregg Popovich

Becky Hammon and the Aces celebrate after defeating the Wings to advance to the WNBA Finals. (Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

For Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, it was never a question of if she would become a coach, but rather a matter of when.

She got her start, quite famously, with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich. A member of the then-San Antonio Stars (now Aces), Hammon tore her ACL in 2013 and sat out that WNBA season.

Following the season, she told Stars head coach Dan Hughes that she, too, wanted to become a coach. From there, she asked if he could put her in contact with Popovich and the Spurs, Hughes told ESPN.

“I went over the next day to Gregg Popovich,” Hughes said. “They were in the gym, him and [Spurs CEO] R.C. Buford. I said, ‘How do you feel about Becky coming over?’

“‘Oh, we’d love to have her,’ Pop said. ‘Give her my phone number and give me a call.’ That’s kind of how that went down.”

Hammon spent the 2013-14 season shadowing the Spurs staff while rehabbing her ACL injury. In 2014, she became the first woman to serve as a full-time paid assistant coach in the NBA. That turned into an eight-year career in San Antonio, with Hammon becoming one of the top assistant coaches in the league.

In 2020, during her seventh season with San Antonio, Hammon became the first female acting head coach in NBA history when Popovich was ejected from a game. But despite the experience, and multiple interviews for NBA head coaching positions, Hammon never got the opportunity to stand as a head coach in her own right.

Enter the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces hired her away from the Spurs in 2022, and that same season, Hammon led them to their first WNBA championship. And she has them on the precipice of another title, with Las Vegas set to face off against the New York Liberty in the 2023 WNBA Finals starting Sunday.