Last night’s 121-107 victory for the Los Angeles Lakers over the San Antonio Spurs won’t be remembered as the Lakers third win of the new season, nor the Spurs second defeat.
Instead, it will be remembered as the time the first female head coach, Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, took on head coaching responsibilities of a team in a professional NBA Game.
In what was a fractious first half of action, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich picked up two technical fouls for arguing with officials after decisions he felt went against his team. He was then ejected from the game with just under four minutes remaining in the first half and the Lakers leading by 54-41.
Pop then turned to his assistant Hammon and as she explained: “He officially pointed at me. That was it. He said, ‘You got ‘em.’. That was it. Very Pop-like. See? You guys get treated no differently than we do.”
In stepping in for the ejected Popovich, Hammon duly became the first female head coach in an NBA game in the history of the sport.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a substantial moment”
Although Hammon couldn’t quite turn the game around after taking on head coaching responsibilities, she can note with some satisfaction that over the remainder of the game, the Lakers only outscored the Spurs by a single point.
Result aside though, the gravity of the moment was apparent when Hammon spoke to press following the game.
“Obviously, it’s a big deal. It’s a substantial moment,” she stated in the press conference.
“I try not to think of the huge picture and huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming,” she admitted.
“I was traded here in 2007,” she explained. “I’ve been part of Spurs Sports and Entertainment for 13 years. I’ve had a lot of time invested and they’ve had a lot of time invested in me and making me better.”
In November, San Antonio locals spotted a newly-painted mural of Becky Hammon in a neighborhood near Lincoln Heights.
The mural reads “never stop.”
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) December 31, 2020
“Obviously a learning experience”
Following the game, Hammon reflected on what was a solid performance by the Spurs under her leadership and how being the first female NBA head coach didn’t really enter her mind until after the game.
“It’s just trying to get the guys in the right spots, trying to motivate them a little bit, trying to execute the game plan. obviously a learning experience for all of us. I would’ve loved to walk out of there with a win with the guys.”
“It’s really just, I’m in the moment with the guys trying to figure out the best way to help them, put them in the best spots to be successful. The moment just was trying to come up with stuff to try and help us win the game.”
Experienced Spurs Forward, DeMar DeRozan, spoke after the game about the high regard the Spurs players hold for coach Hammon, stating: “She’s one of us. When she speaks, we are all ears. It’s great having her.”
Big Year For Women in Traditionally Men’s Sports
Becky Hammon spent 16 years playing in the WNBA, spending nearly half that time with the New York Liberty before moving to the San Antonio Spurs women’s team in 2007. She finished her career there in 2014 and became a member of the coaching team at the Spurs a short time thereafter as an assistant coach.
She has remained in that role ever since, until her elevation to temporary head coach last night.
It has been a big year for women in American Sport and Hammon’s achievement is just the latest in a number of landmark events. Sarah Fuller, a kicker for Vanderbilt, was the first woman to score in a Power Five college game when kicking two extra points against Tennessee in December.
Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller among top list of breakout sports stars in 2020 https://t.co/91mT9ERoGU
— Tennessean (@Tennessean) December 29, 2020
This came a short time after Sarah Thomas was hired as the first full-time female official in the NFL at the start of the 2020 season as part of referee’s Shawn Hochuli’s crew.
Spurs Defeat Doesn’t Help their NBA Championship Odds
After falling to 2-2 on the season with their defeat to the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs are still rated a rank outsider to win the NBA Championship this season at +15000, while the Los Angeles Lakers remain the clear favourites to retain their title that they won last season as they are now +230.
Both those prices are with DraftKings Online Sportsbook and were correct at the time of writing.