Why Gregg Popovich believes Becky Hammon coaching isn’t a big deal

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon prepares to draw up a play during a timeout after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected Wednesday.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

It all should be “irrelevant,” San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of assistant Becky Hammon becoming a head coach before Friday’s game with the Lakers.

Hammon took over for him after he got ejected Wednesday night, making her the first woman to serve as a head coach in an NBA game. It was history made out of merit and logic, Popovich said, Hammon’s gender being secondary to her coaching acumen and familiarity with the Lakers.

“As you all know, we’re very participatory. I like to have my coaches coach. The Lakers were her scout team. It made total sense for her to take over. That’s what we’ve done for decades. That’s nothing new,” Popovich said.


“But on the bigger question of her having taken over a NBA game, to me, it’s not a big surprise. To a lot of other people it meant a lot. I can understand that. She’s somebody who’s very skilled and could very easily fulfill the duties of a head coach in the NBA. That goes without saying. There are women in every other endeavor in the world, whether it’s government, science, technology, aviation, it doesn’t matter what it is. Women do the same jobs as well and better than men. That’s a fact. There’s no reason why somebody like Becky and other women can’t be coaches in the NBA.

“On a larger scale, that’s why it wasn’t a big deal to me — because I know her. And I know her skills, and I know her value and I know her future is very, very bright. I understand the attention it got, but in all honesty, I assumed that most people already knew that she was qualified to be a head coach in the NBA.”

Hammon has been on the Spurs bench since the 2014-15 season. Her in-game promotion Wednesday earned national attention, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris tweeting about it.

But for Popovich, who has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, this action wasn’t about any type of statement. He never wanted Hammon on board for those reasons.

“We didn’t hire Becky to make history. She earned it. She is qualified. She’s wonderful at what she does,” Popovich said. “I wanted her on my staff because of the work that she does. And she happens to be a woman, which basically should be irrelevant but it’s not in our world, as we’ve seen as it’s been so difficult for women to obtain certain positions. It was business as usual for us.”



LeBron James could remain on team’s injury report for the near future because of his troublesome left ankle. “LeBron has some mild soreness in his ankle, but he’s plenty healthy to play,” coach Frank Vogel said. “So we’ll continue to have him on the injury report as long as there’s some of that soreness.” …Guard Alex Caruso will miss Sunday’s game in Memphis because of the league’s health and safety protocols. Caruso wasn’t with the team in San Antonio.