Updated: Aug 23, 2021
At this point, it almost seems like a joke - Assistant Coach Becky Hammon still has not been offered an elusive Head Coach position in the NBA. For several years, Hammon has been recognized as the assistant coach standing next to San Antonio Spurs’ Head Coach, Gregg Popovich. She even stepped in as the first acting female head coach for a game when Pop was ejected in a game in late 2020.
Hammon spent 15 years playing professional basketball in the WNBA, with the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Silver Stars. She certainly has the coaching skills, basketball legacy, popularity, and admiration to stack her resume. Pop and the Spurs players respect her immensely. After her temporary role as Head Coach, DeMar DeRozan said “any player who knows the history of women’s basketball knows what she meant to the sport. She’s one of us. When she speaks, we are all ears.”
The players may listen when she speaks but the NBA’s top executives and hiring directors certainly are not. Hammon has interviewed for several head coach positions but still has not received the offer that would change NBA history. In a recent interview, Hammon said she does not want to be hired “just to check a box” because she is a woman, rather she’d prefer to be hired because of her skill set and accomplishments. That’s understandable. But here’s the thing -- she probably hasn’t been hired yet because of her gender. Hammon certainly has those accomplishments, between her own playing time and her coaching position with a relatively successful professional team.
It’s not just Becky Hammon either; it’s Dawn Staley from the University of South Carolina, it’s from Kara Lawson from the Celtics. College coaches are often tapped for head coaching jobs in the NFL and no one blinks an eye, despite not being able to replicate the same success (i.e., Nick Saban, Greg Schiano, potentially Urban Meyer, etc.). Then there’s those who are hired as head coaches who might have just gotten the role because of their name (ahem, Jason Kidd). I was a Jason Kidd fan when I was a kid (and when the Nets played in New Jersey) but he retired in June 2013 and less than two weeks later he was named as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets - with no time spent grinding away as an assistant coach. People often make comments like “well why does a woman need to coach a men’s team?” - but no one questions when men have found success as WNBA head coaches - 50 percent of all current WNBA coaches are men. Double standard much?
The NBA shouldn’t hire Hammon or Staley or Lawson or any other woman to avoid a potential discriminatory label or lawsuit. That would be incredibly disrespectful, on top of the lack of consideration the league has already shown. Instead, they - and other women leaders in the NBA - should be promoted and hired because they deserve to be.
People often say they can’t wait for the day that stories like this aren’t in the news anymore, where women are breaking barriers for simply excelling at their careers and it’s noteworthy. Until that actually happens, the sports world needs to get their act together so that coaches like Becky Hammon get their chance to leave their mark on the NBA.
Photo Credit: https://news.abs-cbn.com/sports/06/13/21/nba-becky-hammon-dawn-staley-among-portlands-coaching-candidates-report
Amanda Malool is a third-year law student at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. She is the Vice President of Rutgers’ Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Society. Additionally, she is a Summer Associate at Fernandez Garcia Law. She can be found on Twitter @AmandaMalool.