Much has been written about the Las Vegas Aces winning their first WNBA title. From A’ja Wilson’s MVP season, Chelsea Gray’s Finals MVP run, and the impact Las Vegas has made on the league. Today, I want to take a moment and reflect on Becky Hammon’s coaching career and how she went from San Antonio Star player to Las Vegas Aces head coach.
The highest-paid coach in WNBA history.— Front Office Sports (@FOS) September 18, 2022
Commissioner's Cup Champion.
Coach of the Year.
No. 1 seed.
Becky Hammon just led the Las Vegas Aces to their first-ever WNBA Championship in her debut season pic.twitter.com/qfQiJvGRvB
The beginning of Becky Hammon’s coaching career starts at the end of her playing days. In 2013, while recovering from injury, she attended San Antonio Spurs practices, games, and coaching meetings. She later described this year as an “internship” with the Spurs. In 2014 she officially retired from the Stars and began working as a Spurs assistant coach.
“It’s a tremendous challenge, and it comes with tremendous responsibility,” Hammon said upon accepting the job. “There have been so many other women that are doing really, really great things, and I’m just kind of following in their paths.”
While Becky mentioned following in other women’s paths, she seemed much more like a trailblazer. She is only the second coach ever in the history of the NBA, with the first being Lisa Boyer who worked as a volunteer assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001. In 2015, Hammon took another step forward in her coaching career by being the head coach of the Spurs’ Summer League team. She was the first-ever female head coach in Summer League and went on to win the Summer League title.
“They listened, they played really hard for me, and so I just really appreciate their attentiveness, their alertness and their desire to win.” Hammon said postgame. The win was further proof that not only was Hammon a good coach, but she could have tremendous success as the head coach of NBA talent. Still, the question remained, when will she be the head coach of an NBA team?
That day was December 30, 2020. It was Lakers vs. Spurs, LeBron James’ 36th birthday. Greg Popovich received two techs and was ejected from the game in the second quarter. Suddenly, Hammon was the head coach of the Spurs for the rest of the game. “He officially pointed at me and nodded,” Hammon said after the game about finding out she’d be the head coach. The team lost 121-107 to Los Angeles, but history was made with Becky being the first woman to be the head coach of an NBA team, even if it was just for a night.
“I did not walk into the arena thinking I’d be coaching tonight,” she said. “But that’s the way things go, and you just roll with it.”
As the months and years went on, there was always speculation and anticipation that Hammon would get a chance to be the permanent head coach in San Antonio or elsewhere in the NBA. However, that never came to fruition; instead, the Aces made a splash by hiring her prior to the 2022 season. They immediately showed how much they wanted her to be their coach by making her the highest-paid head coach in WNBA history, paying her a salary of $1 million.
“After talking to (Las Vegas Aces president Nikki Fargas) and wrestling and throwing around different ideas and stuff, obviously I came to the conclusion that this was the best spot for me and my family.” Becky Hammon said at her introductory press conference.
“And an opportunity for me sit in the big chair and be a head coach of a major sports league, and so I feel like I’m ready to have my own team, and this is the organization that made it very obvious that they wanted me really bad, and so it’s always good to be wanted, and so it quickly became evident to me that Las Vegas was the place for me.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Hammon went on to have a historic season and accomplish almost every feat imaginable. Coach of the year, No. 1 seed, Commissioner's Cup Championship and the WNBA championship. The journey may have been years in the making, but it seems Hammon is right where she belongs, making history.
“My journey’s not by mistake,” she said. “Every hard thing I’ve gone through has built something in me that I’ve needed down the road.”
With A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, and Chelsea Gray signed for next season, it seems Hammon has everything she needs to dominate the W again.