Becky Hammon to the NBA feels like a tired story, one that gets revived on occasions like International Women’s Day to remind sports fans that she’s more than capable of leading a basketball team in any league. However, I’m not going to do that because I want to highlight just how exhausting this narrative is — not for men who hate a woke agenda in their sports talk, but for the women, who I’m sure are literally exhausted by men saying the same fucking things about Hammon.
How many times do you think she’s been asked what the difference is between coaching men and women? Or why is it that she hasn’t landed an NBA head coaching gig yet? Or if she plans to pursue an opening. I remember listening to a Ta-Nehisi Coates interview a few years back, and the author was genuinely shocked when the first question wasn’t about “Between the World and Me,” his New York Times Best Seller that’s been borderline co-opted by white book clubs as the de facto book on race relations.
And that’s how I feel when I read interviews with Hammon. We so desperately want her to be a beacon for progression, and assume that’s not only what she wants but also all she wants to talk about. Never mind the parade of bullshit that comes along with breaking that barrier, or the not-so-subtle shots at her ability that she has to endure to get there.
Case and point, the Portland Trail Blazers
When Hammon was peaking as a candidate with the Spurs, she was told “You’ve only been in San Antonio and you’ve never been a head coach” as if that has deterred teams before. Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree is one of the most impressive in any sport, and working for him for the length of time that Hammon did should’ve all but guaranteed her an NBA head coaching position.
That leads me to believe Hammon isn’t the problem — which, obviously, she is not — but rather the people occupying the front offices. The prime example of this was when the Portland Trail Blazers passed over Hammon for Chauncy Billups, who was a first-year assistant at the time, and also was accused of rape in 1997. (Billups claims that the sex was consensual, and he was never charged. According to WaPo, Billups and the alleged victim settled out of court.)
It was a bad look then, and nothing Billups has done since arriving in Portland has elevated the franchise or fixed the defense. If you want to be triggered, take a look at ESPN’s article that dropped today about Blazers’ GM Joe Cronin hiring WNBA players as part of his staff.
It’s not the substance that pisses me off — it’s great that he’s giving Tina Thompson, Asjha Jones, and other women an opportunity — it’s the overt PR grab of dropping that article on International Women’s Day. A season and a half after the team bypassed a championship-level candidate to hire someone who’s still learning on the job, look at how Cronin is empowering women.
Give me a fucking break. The title of the piece should’ve been, “Blazers try to atone for Hammon misstep by hiring women in positions that aren’t the head coach.”
A different path to a woman becoming an NBA head coach
It’s clear to me that the only people with the chutzpah to hire a woman as their head coach are women. I’m sure if Thompson and Jones had been in Cronin’s ear when the team was looking for a replacement for Terry Stotts, they would’ve vouched for Hammon, or at least the ability of their gender to lead a basketball team.
Men coach women with regularity, and that point is probably as tired as the Hammon for head coach storyline. So, I’ll leave you with this: Next time you want to nominate a woman for an NBA head coaching job, nominate more than just Hammon — because even though she might be the go-to candidate, she’s not the only one, and she might not even want it.