In 2014, former WNBA star Becky Hammon became the first woman assistant coach of an NBA team when she joined the San Antonio Spurs. In the following year, Hammon served as head coach of the Spurs Summer League team that won the championship in Las Vegas. In the past two months, Hammon interviewed for multiple men’s basketball head coaching positions, including at Colorado State, her alma mater, and with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Though Hammon may not be the Bucks’ or another NBA team’s head coach this fall, there is no doubt that people in the NBA respect her accomplishments as a coach and former WNBA star. Hammon is on track to be an NBA team head coach sooner rather than later.
With more women in prominent NBA roles, there is still another hurdle to cross: the front office. The NBA has never had a woman hold general manager or president of basketball operations positions, and there don’t appear to be many women “in the pipeline” for these roles yet.
But one former WNBA superstar could be the first woman to lead an NBA team’s front office. Her name? Tamika Catchings.
After retiring from the WNBA following the 2016 season, Catchings, in April 2017, joined Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E), the Fever’s ownership group, as its director of player programs and franchise development. In her current role, Catchings works with basketball operations and community outreach for all three PS&E teams: Pacers, Fever and the G-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
More specifically, Catchings plays a role in helping players develop their professional skills and ties with the local community. Since Catchings spent 16 years as the face of the Indiana Fever, she is an excellent resource when a Pacers or Fever player wants to work with the local community in Indianapolis.
Additionally, in the hectic world of NBA free agency, Catchings plays a role helping free-agent recruits to the Pacers.
Why could Catchings make a great NBA team general manager in the near future? First, it is one of her career goals.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Catchings writes, “I hope to one day be a General Manager in the WNBA or NBA. It is something that I have dreamed about since college.” Catchings appeared to back off from that stance somewhat because she so enjoyed the community relations aspect of her current role. But again, Catchings still has a role in the front office and, therefore, a clear path towards becoming a general manager at some point.
Second, PS&E offers Catchings an opportunity to get involved in basketball operations by developing relationships with the Pacers’ current front office and players. By getting involved in NBA Free Agency, Catchings will develop a strong understanding of how to gauge prospective free agents as potential good fits (or not).
Statistics and athletic ability are just part of what makes a basketball player great. Because of her prior role as an on-court star in the WNBA, Catchings has the ability to evaluate a player’s work ethic and ability to take criticism when needed. These are things that general managers need to determine as well.
Although Catchings has many of the skills needed to be an effective general manager for an NBA team, there are some areas where she could gain more experience, such as salary cap management and hiring the right coaches at the right time. However, these are skills that many front office people aren’t deeply involved in until they have a high-ranking position.
Still, Catchings is now part of the PS&E’s management team. If she continues to do a great job in her role, Catchings could very well be an NBA team’s general manager when an opportunity presents itself.