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Becky Hammon has a knack for making history. But this time she’s outdone herself.
While at Colorado State University from 1996-99, she established herself as the greatest female basketball player in the state’s history, earning All-America honors three times and setting the Western Athletic Conference all-time scoring record – for women or men.
Despite being undrafted following her brilliant CSU career, she established herself as one of the best and most popular players in WNBA history. In 2011 the San Antonio Stars point guard was voted one of the 15 best to ever play in the WNBA.
Now, the 15-year veteran is preparing to go where no woman has gone before: She will join the coaching staff of the San Antonio Spurs for the 2014-15 season, becoming the first full-time paid female assistant coach in the history of America’s big four sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL).
“I’m just incredibly grateful to Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) and the Spurs,” said Hammon, 37. “As great as this opportunity is, it’s also incredibly humbling.”
Hammon, who closed her career fourth in assists, seventh in scoring and sixth in games played in WNBA history, long has been a student of the game with a high basketball IQ. A point guard throughout her career, she understands the game from every angle.
A bad break – she tore her ACL and was unable to play – proved to be fortuitous in 2013 when she spent much of the NBA season attending Spurs practices. Popovich was so impressed with her basketball acumen that he invited her to participate in film sessions and scouting reports as the Spurs pushed toward the NBA title.
Hammon, who announced her retirement from the WNBA this summer, said she and Popovich have had numerous discussions about her post-playing life.
“My ACL injury last year was a huge turning point in my career,” Hammon said. “It allowed me to be here, be in coaches̕ meetings and see how things work behind the scenes. The Spurs organization has been observing me for eight years – how I play, how I communicate with my teammates, fans and the community, so they know what I’m about.”
Hammon certainly appreciates her place in history but won’t let that be her primary motivation going forward.
“To be honest, with Pop it never has been about the woman thing,” she said. “To him it’s about, ‘Hey, she’s got a great basketball mind and she’d be a great addition to our staff.’
“This is a tremendous opportunity, and I take it with great responsibility. But I also know that women have blazed much bigger trails – doctors, CEOs and such – than this, and now I’m benefiting. I’m very excited and can’t wait to get started.”