South Carolina overcomes slow start to power past UConn
The two teams battled it out.
Becky Hammon is used to betting on herself — even when no one else would.
The Las Vegas Aces coach finished her college career as the most prolific scorer in the history of the Colorado State program, but she went undrafted by the WNBA in 1999.
“I’m disappointed but the battle’s not over,” Hammon said at the time. “It’s not going to end up a sad story.”
Hammon would go on to have a Hall of Fame playing career, with the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars, the franchise that later became the Aces. A six-time WNBA All-Star, she was named to the WNBA’s 15th, 20th and 25th anniversary teams.
Before taking the head coaching job in Las Vegas before the 2022 season, she became the first person to have her number retired by the franchise.
“It’s one of the biggest honors as an athlete that you can have,” she said. “You never know when you show up everyday and go to work. I had no idea. I was undrafted, played 16 years, and I wasn’t supposed to be here but here I am.”
She went on to coach in the NBA, spending eight years as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Many saw her as a possible successor to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who attended the Aces’ win in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night.
“I always do what she says,” Popovich told the Aces after the game, which put them one win away from the first title in franchise history.
“You don’t need me, that’s for sure,” Popovich continued. “But it’s been great watching you guys play. It’s been great watching you on TV and the way you execute, the way you play physically, it’s just beautiful to watch. You just play great basketball.”
Hammon interviewed for NBA head coaching jobs on multiple occasions while with the Spurs, but she was never offered a position
“I sat in a lot of head coaching interviews,” Hammon said after being hired by Las Vegas. “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.’”
And in her first year as a head coach, she’s proved both Davis, the team owner, and Nikki Fargas, the team president, right. And she’s proved every single NBA executive who passed over her for a head coaching gig wrong.
In her first season as a head coach, Hammon has the Aces on the verge of a title. But that’s not all she’s done this year.
She led Las Vegas to the best record in the league at 26-10 and the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs, earning her Coach of the Year honors in her debut campaign. She’s the first former player to win the honor in her first season and the third overall.
Under Hammon, the Aces set a franchise record for wins in a single season. She also recorded the second-best winning percentage ever by a rookie head coach. She led the team to a Commissioner’s Cup championship in July and was one of the coaches for the WNBA All-Star game.
Now she has her sights set on yet another accolade: a WNBA championship.
“It’s about putting these ladies in a position to win a championship. That’s been my focus,” Hammon said following the Game 2 win.
“That’s why I took the job. I felt they had the talent to do it and I felt that I could build the relationships and build the culture in the right way for us to put ourselves in a position to be able to win a championship. Like I said before, we haven’t won anything yet. All we did was take care of home court, what we are supposed to do.
“I’m used to people not picking me — I don’t know if you’re aware. I just do me.”
The two teams battled it out.
Clark continues to set herself apart.
Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese are clear front-runners.
Engelbert is focused on the long-term health of the league.
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