Becky Hammon, the first woman to serve as an assistant coach in NBA history, will reportedly interview for the vacant head coach position with the Milwaukee Bucks. Per ESPN:
Hammon is the NBA’s first female assistant coach and now will be the first woman to interview for a head-coaching job in the league.
Hammon isn’t considered a frontline candidate on a Bucks list that includes at least 10 possible candidates, but Milwaukee ownership and general manager Jon Horst were intrigued enough to ask the Spurs for permission to speak with her.
Hammon has been an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio since 2014, after playing in the WNBA for 16 season. Last month the New Yorker ran an extended profile of Hammon, and her path from a world-beating player to a prominent assistant coach under one of the greatest head coaches in NBA history:
But Popovich was most struck by her prowess as a court general: she had an uncanny ability to direct her teammates around the floor. “I’d watch the game, and the only thing I could see—it’s an exaggeration, I mean, but—was Becky’s aura, her leadership, her effect on teammates, her effect on the crowd, the way she handled herself,” Popovich told me. “She was, like, the ultimate leader. Energy, juice, vitality. At the same time, she was doing intelligent things on the court, making decisions that mattered.”
For Hammon to be hired as a head coach, Popovich said, “it’s going to take somebody who has some guts, some imagination, and is not driven by old standards and old forms.” He went on, “If somebody is smart, it’s actually a pretty good marketing deal—but it’s not about that. It’s got to be that she’s competent, that she’s ready.”
An assistant spot under Popovich is about as strong a resumé highlight as you can find in basketball coaching. In fact, the favorite for the Bucks job—Mike Budenholzer, who is set to move on from the Atlanta Hawks—is another candidate from out of the Popovich coaching tree; Ettore Messina, another current San Antonio assistant and the man who helmed the Spurs during Popovich’s absence in these playoffs, will reportedly also interview for the Bucks job.
Plenty of assistant coaches get onto this path and never reach the end (just ask Patrick Ewing), but Hammon’s pedigree in basketball and coaching is unimpeachable, and she’s acing the same apprenticeship that once made Budenholzer—who never played professional basketball and started his coaching career as a video coordinator—a hot commodity as a rising head coach candidate. That she’s gotten this interview means the question of her someday becoming an NBA head coach should be framed in terms of when, and not if.