SAN ANTONIO • San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon made history on Wednesday, becoming the first woman to take charge of a National Basketball Association (NBA) team when she took over after long-serving head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected.
Popovich received two technical fouls with 3 minutes and 56 seconds left in the second quarter of the Spurs’ eventual 121-107 defeat by the visiting Los Angeles Lakers, leading to Hammon stepping in.
“I did not walk into the arena thinking I would be coaching tonight, but that’s the way things go and you roll with it, and I would have liked a different outcome,” the 43-year-old said.
“Overall, I would have loved to get a win tonight more than anything.”
She did not know she would be put in charge until her boss made the call.
“He officially pointed at me,” she said. “That was it. He said, ‘You got ’em.’ That was it. Very Pop-like.”
San Antonio trailed by 11 points when Popovich was tossed and while all the attention was on Hammon, she insisted she could not have done it alone.
“We all group together, (assistant coaches) Will Hardy, Mitch Johnson, (like) ‘What can we do to help?'” she said. “It was a great team effort, and they are in my ear giving me suggestions and helping with substitutions and whatnot.
“When Pop gets tossed, we all come together and become kind of another team.”
Hammon has been an assistant coach for the Spurs since August 2014, the first woman to be paid for that job in an official, full-time capacity.
The former guard had a 16-year playing career in the Women’s National Basketball Association and while LeBron James spoiled her debut on what was his 36th birthday, Hammon was still proud of her acting role.
“Obviously it’s a big deal, a substantial moment,” she said. “I’ve been a part of this organisation. I got traded here in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs… organisation with the (San Antonio) Stars and everything for 13 years.
“So I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me in building me and getting me better.”
James had a team-high 26 points as he set another NBA milestone, scoring double-digit points for the 1,000th straight game.
On his latest achievement, the Finals Most Valuable Player said: “I just try to live in the moment and just try to continue to get better with my game, try to get better with my teammates and try to just maximise when I’m on the floor.
“I’ve been blessed to play the game that I love for 18 years and hopefully, I can continue to play at a high level.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS