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Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon ‘ready to have my own team’

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Eight years ago, Becky Hammon made history as the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA. On Monday, she was officially announced as the next head coach of the Las Vegas Aces, three days after signing a five-year deal that will reportedly make her the highest-paid coach in the WNBA.

Hammon’s return to the league might have come as a surprise to those who thought she’d be the first woman to serve as a head coach in the NBA. Since Hammon joined Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs staff in 2014, six other women now hold assistant coaching jobs in the NBA, including Teresa Weatherspoon, Hammon’s former New York Liberty teammate who is currently with the New Orleans Pelicans.

On Monday, Hammon called NBA jobs “hard to get.”

“In some ways, I feel like the NBA maybe is close,” she said. “In other ways, I feel like they’re a long ways off from hiring [a woman head coach]. I don’t know when it could happen.”

Hammon has interviewed for NBA head coaching jobs on multiple occasions, and said that, in some ways, she feels like she “was very close” to finally landing a head coaching gig. When Aces owner Mark Davis and president Nikki Fargas met with her about the Las Vegas opening, she knew she was ready to lead a basketball team.

“I sat in a lot of head-coaching interviews,” Hammon said. “Two things that people always said: ‘You’ve only been in San Antonio, and you’ve never been a head coach.’ Well, Mark Davis met me. Nikki met me. And they said, ‘That’s a head coach right now.'”

But Hammon isn’t looking at the Aces as a stepping stone. It’s a head coaching job in a major professional sports league, and it’ sa league she spent 16 years playing in — eight with the Liberty and eight with the San Antonio Stars. While she had never closed the door on the WNBA, Hammon said she hadn’t intended to leave the NBA until the Aces pursued her.

“A lot did go into this decision, a lot of sleepless nights,” Hammon said. “I came to the conclusion that this was the best spot for me and my family, and an opportunity for me to sit in the big chair and be a head coach of a major professional sports league.”

Fargas said Hammon made such an impression when the Aces retired her jersey in September that they decided to try to lure her away from San Antonio.

“Being the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces is a step forward and a step in the right direction for myself and for women’s basketball,” Hammon said. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this opportunity that I have. There’s something to being a head coach.

“I feel like I’m ready to have my own team. And this is the organization that made it very, very obvious they wanted me really, really bad. And so it’s always good to be wanted.”

She also recognizes how big of a deal it is that more WNBA teams are hiring women. Now, six of 12 teams have female head coaches, with the New York Liberty expected to make it seven when they officially name Sandy Brondello as head coach. The Phoenix Mercury are the only other team with a job opening.

“It matters because representation matters,” Hammon said. “I think once we can start peeling back the layers of society and what is viewed as [a leader], we can start hiring people based on what they bring to the table.

“There are so many great women coaches out there who should be leading their own teams and given those opportunities. We have never had these press conferences when it came to a man leading a women’s team, but there are all these conversations about women leading a men’s team.”

Hammon also wants the narrative between men’s and women’s basketball to change.

“Quite frankly, I’ve been watching the WNBA for a long time and stealing all their plays for a while,” she said. “[WNBA coaches] have great basketball minds, and they are 100 percent invested in what they do, and they are the best at what they do.

Long thought to be Popovich’s replacement when he retires, Hammon now takes over one of the best teams in the WNBA. Bill Laimbeer will remain with the Aces and assist in roster-building during free agency while Hammon finishes out the NBA season with the Spurs. Las Vegas ended 2021 as the second-best team during the regular season before falling to the Mercury in the semifinals.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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