Gregg Popovich refused to call Becky Hammon's historic head coaching stint 'a big deal' because she's already so qualified

Gregg Popovich refused to call Becky Hammon's historic head coaching stint 'a big deal' because she's already so qualified
Becky Hammon (right) coaches alongside San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
  • Gregg Popovich said "it wasn't a big deal" that Becky Hammon made history as the first woman to serve as head coach in the history of the NBA.
  • The legendary San Antonio Spurs playcaller said he "assumed that most people already knew that she was qualified to be a head coach in the NBA" and that her stint at the helm was "business as usual."
  • Hammon is now back in her usual spot down the bench for the time being, but Popovich and many others expect that it won't be long before she's tapped for a full-time coaching position in the league.

Much fanfare surrounded Becky Hammon's historic stint as the first woman to serve as a head coach in NBA history last week.

But to legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, "it was business as usual."

"It wasn't a big deal to me," Popovich said on New Year's Day, according to the Los Angeles Times' Dan Woike.
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"I understand the attention it got, but in all honesty, I assumed that most people already knew that she was qualified to be a head coach in the NBA," he added.
Gregg Popovich refused to call Becky Hammon's historic head coaching stint 'a big deal' because she's already so qualified
Becky Hammon.Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Hammon - an assistant coach for the Spurs - took the reins from Popovich during the first half of San Antonio's December 30 matchup against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers after the 71-year-old was ejected for arguing a no-call with a referee. With a simple point of his finger, Pop set the stage for Hammon to achieve one of many "firsts" for women in sports this year.

But he didn't see it that way.
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"We didn't hire Becky to make history," Popovich said. "She earned it. She is qualified. She's wonderful at what she does. I wanted her on my staff because of the work that she does. And she happens to be a woman, which basically should be irrelevant, but it's not in our world."

"She's somebody who's very skilled and could very easily fulfill the duties of a head coach in the NBA," he added, "That goes without saying."
Gregg Popovich refused to call Becky Hammon's historic head coaching stint 'a big deal' because she's already so qualified
Becky Hammon (left) helps guard a Spurs player during warm-ups.Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Hammon echoed a similar sentiment, calling her 28 minutes at the helm "business as usual."
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"They're used to hearing my voice in practice," she said after the game, per ESPN.

Still, both she and Popovich acknowledged that Hammon's shattering of the glass ceiling constituted "a substantial moment" for many, especially given the underrepresentation of women in positions of authority both in the NBA and throughout the men's sports landscape.

Gregg Popovich refused to call Becky Hammon's historic head coaching stint 'a big deal' because she's already so qualified
Gregg Popovich (right) consults with Becky Hammon.Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
"To a lot of other people it meant a lot. I can understand that," Popovich said. "[But] 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. That's a fact. There's no reason why somebody like Becky and other women can't be coaches in the NBA."
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"On a larger scale, that's why it wasn't a big deal to me - because I know her," he added. "And I know her skills, and I know her value and I know her future is very, very bright."

Hammon's back in her usual spot down the bench for the time being, but Popovich and many others expect that it won't be long before she's tapped for a full-time coaching position in the league. Until then, she'll study under the tutelage of one of the best to ever do it - a reality Hammon does not take lightly.

Gregg Popovich refused to call Becky Hammon's historic head coaching stint 'a big deal' because she's already so qualified
Rudy Gay (left) and Becky Hammon.Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
"I've been a part of this organization, I got traded here in 2007, so I've been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the Stars and everything for 13 years," she said, per ESPN. "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."
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