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Spurs assistant makes history as first woman to lead NBA team

Becky Hammon
Posted at 7:54 AM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 10:53:37-05

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A San Antonio Spurs assistant coach made history as the first woman to direct an NBA team as a head coach during the regular season.

Becky Hammon took over when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was ejected during the Spurs' 121-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hammon took over with 3:56 left in the second quarter in the game when the Lakers were leading 54-41.

"Obviously it's a big deal. It's a substantial moment," Hammon told reporters after the game. "I've been a part of this organization. I got traded here in 2007 (when the Spurs owned an WNBA franchise), so I've been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the 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.

    "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 get overwhelming. It's my job to go in there to be focused for those guys and make sure that I'm helping them do the things that will help us win."
    After the game, Hammon said she had not thought of the implications of taking over the team in Wednesday's game.

    "I really have not had 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."

    Popovich will be credited as the head coach in official NBA statistics and will receive the loss in his career record.

    But it was still a historic moment for Hammon, a Basketball Hall of Fame nominee who has worked as an assistant coach for the team since 2014. She has also been mentioned as a possible NBA head coach for other franchises because of her strong work ethic during her tenure with the Spurs.

    Hammon's players were enthusiastic to her coaching style after the game.

    "Becky played, and any player who knows the history of women's basketball knows what she meant to the sport," Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan told ESPN.com. "You don't think twice about it. She's one of us. When she speaks, we are all ears."

    Additionally, she has previously served as the Spurs' head coach during the NBA's Summer League in Las Vegas.

    She learned of her ascension in Wednesday's game as Popovich stormed off the court.

    "He officially pointed at me," Hammon said. “That was it. … That was it. Said, ‘You got ‘em,’ and that was it. Very Pop-like. See? You guys don’t get treated any different than we do.”