Everything You Need to Know About San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

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After a historic romp over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs are again putting themselves in rare company.

On Tuesday, the organization announced via NBA.com that it's made Becky Hammon just the second female coach in NBA history.

The New York Daily News' Madison Hartman notes, "While Hammon is the first to be officially be hired as staff for an NBA squad, Lisa Boyer was part of the Cleveland Cavalier’s staff in a volunteer position from 2001-02."

Much as the basketball world may be intrigued by her gender, the Spurs are focused on what she'll bring to the franchise.

The decision comes on the heels of San Antonio also adding European legend Ettore Messina to head coach Gregg Popovich's suddenly impressive staff.

Though the organization has had a relatively quiet summer in terms of upgrading its roster, its refurbished brain trust appears poised to keep things fresh.

Hammon and Messina join a staff that already includes assistants Jim Boylen, Ime Udoka, Chip Engelland, Chad Forcier and Sean Marks.

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"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff," Popovich said in the NBA.com statement. "Having observed her working with our team this past season, I'm confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs."

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 07: Becky Hammon #25 of the San Antonio Stars during a game against the Phoenix Mercury at AT&T Center on June 7, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using thi
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Hammon's unique history and perspective are sure to add a valued voice to a locker room that prides itself on doing things the right way and playing a brand of basketball that's widely recognized as one of the soundest and most selfless in the business.

Much attention will undoubtedly be focused on Hammon's gender, but her successful track record suggests this is anything but a savvy PR move.

The 5'6" point guard went from being an undrafted rookie in 1999 to becoming one of the most accomplished players in the WNBA.

Her successful journey began with a record-setting career at Colorado State.

According to Joe Nguyen of The Denver Post, "Hammon played at CSU from 1995-99, scoring more points in her career than any Rams player, with 2,740. She was a two-time All-American and three-time WAC Player of the Year." 

Speaking with CSURams.com, CSU director of athletics Mark Driscoll said, "Becky Hammon without question is the finest women's basketball player in school history."

Covering her jersey retirement, the CSURams.com article adds Hammon was "a four-time first-team all-conference performer, the league's freshman of the year, and 15-time conference player of the week award winner. She was named the league tournament most valuable player as a freshman."

The standout college career wasn't enough to get Hammon drafted, but it did lead to a deal with the WNBA's New York Liberty. Four years later, Hammon was voted to her first All-Star Game in 2003. It was her first of six trips.

After spending her first several seasons as a reserve, Hammon quickly established herself as one of the league's top point guards.

The San Antonio Stars coveted her enough to give up the second overall pick in 2007's draft in a trade with the Liberty.

The sweet-shooting playmaker went on to further establish herself with the Stars, averaging 18.8 points in 2007 and a career-high 19.5 points per contest in 2009. She later notched a career-high 5.8 assists per game in 2011.

After a torn ACL in the 2013 season opener cut her season short, Hammon was able to bounce back and play a full season in 2014. Set to retire following the 2014 campaign, she has appeared in all but two games this season, starting in each of them. Currently the Stars' all-time assist leader, Hammon certainly has left her mark on the basketball world.

ESPN.com notes that she was "named one of the WNBA's top 15 players of all time in July 2011" and "ranks seventh in WNBA history in points (with 5,809), fourth in assists (1,687) and sixth in games (445)."

SAN ANTONIO - June 24: Becky Hammon #25 of the San Antonio Stars stands on the court during a game against the Washington Mystics at the AT&T Center on June 24, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

The 37-year-old epitomized a fundamentally sound floor general who could make shots and passes alike. It's no surprise she caught the attention of a Spurs front office that holds that kind of pedigree in high esteem.

For the 2013-14 season, Hammon got an up-close look at how the Spurs do things, hoping her experience would eventually translate into some kind of coaching role.

The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe wrote, "Hammon became a fixture at practice sessions, an unofficial coaching intern, participating in staff meetings and video sessions."

"I'm kind of just there, a fly on the wall soaking up how they run things over there in the film sessions," Hammon explained to Monroe in February. "I get a lot out of their film sessions, just listening to the coaches go back and forth on what they think is happening on certain plays."

Popovich discussed her presence at the time:

We really respect her as an individual and as a player, and she wanted to participate so we put her in all our coaches' meetings and at our practices just to see how she reacts to it all. It's been great having her around. Becky's a lifer. She wants to keep playing. She wants to see how she likes coaching. We love her to death.

Stars head coach Dan Hughes was optimistic about her chances, telling Monroe, "It's going to happen at some point. I was on the men's side for 20 years, and now on the women's side for 15. A good coach is a good coach, and a player with potential to be a good coach is just that."

He added, "Becky is one of those people who have the ability to do it. I think that it could happen for her."

Thanks to the impression Hammon made during her unofficial stint with the Spurs, Hughes' prediction has rapidly come to fruition.

As the 2013-14 regular season came to a close, Popovich remained adamant about his praise for Hammon in an interview with The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com):

She wants to coach after she's done. Because she's not just a good player but a smart player, a great person in our community, just somebody that we all respect so much, we gave her the opportunity to sit with us during the year. She came to our coaches' meetings, argued with us. She did everything. She's been wonderful.

When broached with the inevitable gender question, Popovich added, "I don't see why not. There shouldn't be any limitations. It's about talent and the ability to do things. It's not about what your sex is or your race or anything else."

Hammon will no doubt treasure the opportunity to cement her place in history. Despite her brilliant career, controversy followed her in 2008 when she elected to play for the Russian national team in the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Some—including U.S. women's coach Anne Donovan—questioned Hammon's patriotism.

Hammon had played offseason basketball with CSKA Moscow from 2007-09, so the decision was natural enough—especially given the lack of an invitation to try out for the U.S. team. During her stint in Moscow, Hammon played for the women's affiliate of the same club fellow assistant Messina coached from 2005-09.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: Becky Hammon #25 of the San Antonio Stars during a game against the Seattle Storm at AT&T Center on June 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

She later commented on the decision to The Seattle Times' Jayda Evans:

There was such uproar about my doing it because they thought I said 'No' to our Olympic team to take a boatload of money to play for Russia. That wasn’t the case. It certainly did open doors. It was very impactful for me to go on that journey and for the Russian fans and girls that were on that team. It was nice to get past politics and it being 'Russia' and just getting to know people.

Hammon added, "Walking into an Olympic opening ceremony, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you could go play for so-and-so or sit on your couch and watch, which would you do? It’s easy when you break it down in those terms."

If anything, Hammon's overseas experience was likely interpreted as a virtue by the international-friendly Spurs.

It's yet another dimension to her veteran career, another layer of perspective and insight.

Indeed, the big takeaway from Hammon's history is that she's a natural for this franchise. As Popovich put it to NBA Inside Stuff (via USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt), "She knows when to talk, and she knows when to shut up. That's as simple as you can put it, and a lot of people don't figure that out...She knows how to do it, and our players really respond to her."

No one should be surprised that the Spurs have uncovered another perfect fit. Though her gender will steal headlines for now, her acumen and results will almost certainly become the real story soon enough.

Thanks to San Antonio's record of consistent excellence, we'll all be watching.

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