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A new billboard near the Boston Celtics’ practice facility reads, “Hey Brad, it’s time to shake it up. Hire Kara or Becky!”
That’s in reference to the open Celtics head coaching job and former Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
Who will shake it up? Which NBA team will become the first to hire a woman as head coach? Boston? Portland? Indiana? Orlando?
Hammon, who interviewed for the Indiana job last year and the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018, will receive consideration this year. She is scheduled for an interview with Portland, and Orlando plans to interview her, too.
The Magic are an intriguing option and have a progressive front office led by Jeff Weltman and John Hammond. Becky Bonner is the team’s director of player development and basketball operations, joining the franchise in 2017. Bonner is one of a few female executives in basketball operations in the league.
Hammon appears to be the logical choice to become the first female coach to lead an NBA team. She has been with the Spurs as an assistant coach for the past seven seasons, a front of bench assistant for the past three years and she coached the Spurs’ Summer League team in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
Earlier this season, Hammon became the first woman to serve as the head coach after Gregg Popovich was ejected. “Obviously, it’s a big deal,” Hammon said on Dec. 30. “It’s a substantial moment.”
Another substantial moment awaits.
For the past few seasons, people from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to former WNBA and G League coach and NBA assistant coach Nancy Lieberman said a woman will be hired as a head coach soon.
How soon is soon? In an interview last season with USA TODAY Sports, NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said, “We want it to happen organically, and when the right opportunity matches the right person, this will happen. We just feel we’re so well positioned. If it happens tomorrow or the next day or this season or a few seasons away, we’re really close. But we’re not putting a timetable on it."
Lieberman told USA TODAY Sports: “It’s right in front of us. It’s going to happen.”
Hammon has put in the work. She runs portions of practices, writes game plans and scouting reports for opponents and delivers the intel to the team and works with players on individual development.
“Becky’s in a spot now where she’s in a position of power,” Spurs guard Patty Mills told USA TODAY Sports. “She’s able to direct guys on what to do and that all comes from work ethic and what she does behind the scenes and getting herself and our team ready for games. She is an NBA coach who knows her (expletive) and gets it done.”
Former NBA center Pau Gasol, who played for the Spurs, professed his unwavering support for Hammon in a story he wrote for The Player’s Tribune three years ago.
“I’ve played with some of the best players of this generation … and I’ve played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich,” Gasol wrote. “And I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”
Hammon played college basketball at Colorado State and professionally in the WNBA and Europe, including several seasons in Russia. She finished her WNBA career with the San Antonio Stars in 2014 and remained with organization.
Said Popovich: “She’s somebody who’s very skilled and could easily fulfill the duties of a head coach in the NBA. 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. And that’s a fact. There’s no reason why somebody like Becky and other women can’t be coaches in the NBA.”
Hammon isn’t the only woman who will interview for an opening. The Blazers have received permissions to speak with South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley, who led her team to the 2017 NCAA championship. While Lawson hasn’t been interviewed by any team yet, she was a Celtics assistant coach in 2019-20 before becoming the women’s head coach at Duke in 2020-21.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is the time ripe for Becky Hammon to land her first head coaching job?