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Will Milwaukee “Buck” the Status Quo by Making Hammon NBA’s First Female Head Coach?

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

May 9, 2018 · 1:35 PM PDT

Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon in Russia
Becky Hammon is on the brink of making history. Photo by Platon Shilikov (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Becky Hammon has become the first female to receive a head coaching interview in the NBA. Will she land the job?
  • Is the rest of the NBA ready to seriously consider women for its head coaching vacancies?  
  • Will Kings assistant Nancy Lieberman be an NBA head coach by 2025?

NBA teams in need of a head coach are no longer looking for the best man for the job. They’re now extending their search to the best woman as well.

Milwaukee “bucked” the status quo earlier this week by inviting San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon to interview for its head coaching vacancy. The news has been lauded by fans and players alike, who see it as a step in the right direction.

Online sportsbooks have also joined the conversation with their own fresh take on the news. The odds are set at +300 that Hammon will begin next season on the Bucks’ bench and -500 that she’ll be passed over.

The Bucks job officially opened up on January 22nd when Jason Kidd was unceremoniously dumped after leading the team to a disappointing 23-22 record. Joe Prunty was appointed the team’s interim assistant coach and led Milwaukee to a 21-16 record and a first round playoff defeat to the Boston Celtics. The Bucks appeared to play harder under Prunty, but ownership was never seriously interested in retaining him.

Hammon is one of six candidates being considered for the Bucks job. The other five coaches include Steve Clifford, Monty Williams, Mike Budenholzer, Ettore Messina, and David Blatt.

Interestingly, many of the candidates also have ties to the Spurs. Williams played in San Antonio from 1995-98, Budenholzer was a Spurs assistant from 1996-2013, and Messina has served as a Spurs assistant since 2014. Fellow Spurs assistant James Borrego likely would have merited consideration too had he not been plucked away by the Hornets on Tuesday.

We’ve been keeping tabs on the NBA’s coaching carousel and have set odds on whether Hammon will be hired, and if other female coaches will follow in her footsteps.

Where will Becky Hammon coach in 2018-19?

Team Odds
San Antonio Spurs 2/3
Milwaukee Bucks 4/1
Atlanta Hawks 9/1
Detroit Pistons 25/1
Orlando Magic 50/1
Toronto Raptors 100/1
FIELD 25/1

With all due respect to Hammon, the 41-year-old has considerably less coaching experience than the other candidates the Bucks are considering. Clifford is a two-time Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, Williams led the Pelicans to a pair of playoff appearances, Budenholzer was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2014-15, Messina is generally considered the best European-born coach of all time, and Blatt led the Cavs to the NBA Finals in his first season.

Hammon’s interview is far more than just a PR move, but it’s unlikely she’ll land the job this time around.

Hammon’s interview is far more than just a PR move, but it’s unlikely she’ll land the job this time around. The good news is that Gregg Popovich will be delighted to have her back in San Antonio. The pair have an excellent relationship dating back to Hammon’s time as a member of the San Antonio Stars and have both benefited from their time together.

“She talks the game and she understands the game” Popovich has said. “I have no doubts that she’s going to be able to be one heck of a coach.”

Over/Under on number of years before Hammon is a head coach in the NBA: 4.5

It’s just a matter of when, not if, the NBA will have its first female head coach. The league has consistently been at the forefront of social innovation and integration, beginning in 1966 when Bill Russell became the first African American head coach in any major U.S. professional sport.

The league has consistently been at the forefront of social innovation and integration, beginning in 1966 when Bill Russell became the first African American head coach.

The NBA has since broken even more barriers by welcoming the first female referee, the first African American general manager, and the first African American majority owner of any major U.S. pro sports league.

The NBA has also flirted with the idea of signing female players on numerous occasions. The San Francisco Warriors selected high school superstar Denise Long in the 1969 NBA Draft, and the New Orleans Jazz picked Delta State standout Lusia Harris in the 1977 NBA Draft. Neither woman played a minute in the league, but their selections jumpstarted an important conversation about gender inclusion that continues to this day.

Hammon will get her chance eventually, and when she does she’ll excel just as she has at every phase of her Hall of Fame career.

Over/Under number of female head coaches in the NBA by 2025: 1.5

It may surprise you to learn that Hammon isn’t the only female assistant coach in the NBA. Former WNBA star Nancy Lieberman has been with Sacramento since 2015. Prior to joining the Kings’ staff, Lieberman spent three seasons roaming the sidelines with the Detroit Shock and was the head coach of the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends from 2009-11.

Hammon isn’t the only female assistant coach in the NBA. Former WNBA star Nancy Lieberman has also been with Sacramento since 2015.

Lieberman is highly respected for her knowledge of the game and is well on her way to becoming a bona fide NBA head coaching candidate.

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