Becky Hammon Becomes First Woman to Coach NBA Team During Regular-Season Game

Virginia Chamlee
·4 min read

Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon has made history again, becoming the first woman to coach an NBA team during the regular season after head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected from Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hammon, who became the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff in 2014, took over in the second quarter of the game after Popovich was ejected for yelling at an official and going onto the court to protest a non-call.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Following her team's 121-107 loss to the Lakers, Hammon acknowledged that her role in Wednesday's game was "a big deal and a substantial moment," but one that took a backseat at the time to her primary focus: winning.

"Honestly, in the moment, I was just trying to win the game. I say this a lot but I try not to think about the huge picture and the huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming," Hammon, 43, told reporters in a video posted to the WNBA Twitter feed. "It's my job to go in there and be focused for those guys and make sure that I'm helping them do the things that will make us win."

She continued: "I really have had no time to reflect. I haven't looked at my phone. So, I have no idea what’s going on outside of AT&T Center tonight."

The former WNBA star added that she would have preferred if the Spurs had won.

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"Obviously, it’s a learning situation for all of us, but I would have loved to have walked out there with a win with the guys," Hammon said to reporters, according to the New York Post.

Those on the opposing team — including Lakers head coach head coach Frank Vogel — also acknowledged the historic moment.

"I’ve talked to her before and she really knows her stuff and obviously she’s here for a reason. She’s equipped, intelligent [and the] guys have great respect for her," Vogel said. "She’s going to be a great coach one day."

Lakers star LeBron James echoed Vogel's remarks.

"Obviously she’s been paying her dues over the last few years and Coach Pop has given her the opportunity," James told reporters following the game. "It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets. She’s very passionate about the game. Congrats to her and congrats for our league."

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Hammon has a storied career in San Antonio basketball, having been traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2007. She joined the Spurs staff in 2014, coaching their Summer League team to a 2015 championship, and becoming a front-of-the-bench assistant in 2018.

Last month, Hammon was honored with a mural in San Antonio, Texas, that pays homage to her trailblazing career.

The mural features a portrait of Hammon above the San Antonio city skyline with the words "Never Stop" painted above her.

Speaking to PEOPLE about her career and achievements in an earlier interview, Hammon said breaking barriers is not something she takes lightly.

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"It's a torch that I carry very seriously," she told PEOPLE. "It's something that I value and I know the weight of the responsibility ... I know I got a lot of little eyes on me. I never take it lightly. And that's why the mountains and the challenges in front of me are just even that much greater."

In a moment of foresight, Hammon also reflected about her goal of becoming an NBA head coach — a goal that would come to fruition just one month later, if only for a portion of a game.

"This is a conversation that is just now starting to come to the surface. So, we're not there yet, but seeing is the first part to eventually believing," she said. "There have been moments throughout my life where I feel like I've had doors shut in my face. And then, there's moments in my life where I've walked through these doors and I'm pinching myself. I think there are more hurdles that we have to jump over in order for that door [NBA head coach] to be opened."