As Thunder and other NBA team's search for coaching candidates, one name getting serious consideration is current Spurs assistant Becky Hammon. Hammon isn't a name just casually being tossed around for the sake of hiring the first woman coach in the NBA.
Hammon has been paying her dues since her days at Colorado State, where she earned All-American honors three times and broke several records, including points, points per game, assist, and three-point field goals. In 2014 she was named to the Spurs staff.
Hammon has spent five years on San Antonio's bench learning from Greg Popovich; the Spurs trusted her enough to let her coach their Summer League team. In 2015 she led that team to a championship.
Hammon also has immense respect of her players' Pau Gasol wrote in the Players Tribune:
"I've been in the NBA for 17 years."... "I've won two championships … I've played with some of the best players of this generation."... "And I've played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich."..." And I'm telling you: Becky Hammon can coach."
"I'm not saying she can coach pretty well." "I'm not saying she can coach enough to get by.".. "I'm not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA's male coaches. I'm saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period."
At 43, Hammon is perfect for growing with a young team, and if the Thunder doesn't hire her, the Pacers might. Considering the Spurs connection, Hammon would fit right in with Oklahoma CIty's buttoned-down approach to running an organization.
If you think the Spurs put Hammon on the staff as a p.r. Move, guess again. Gasol says:
"We're talking about the NBA here — a business where there's a lot of money on the line, and little patience for mediocrity. "... "Also, we're talking about the San Antonio Spurs, one of the most successful NBA franchises of this century: a system that has produced David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili, Tony Parker — and that's just the Hall of Famers."
"This is a team that won 50+ games for 18-straight seasons, and five championships in the last 20 years."..." Would you really expect Coach Pop to develop his staff any differently than he develops his players? Of course not."
Making Hammon, your head coach isn't thinking outside the box; it just makes sense. She's cut her teeth in one of the best organizations in all of professional sports. And she's not coming out of the television booth or just off the court.
Hammon's rise has been a process; she's ready; it's just a matter of who wants to make that move. Why not the Thunder? Because if it's not Oklahoma City, someone else will be getting a hell of a coach.
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With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past six seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.