NBA basketball has officially made its return with teams beginning to take part in scrimmages this week at the league's bubble venue in Orlando, Florida. Thursday's game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Milwaukee Bucks took on greater significance as Spurs assistant and WNBA legend Becky Hammon acted as San Antonio's head coach for the contest.
Meanwhile, a masked Gregg Popovich, who has directed the San Antonio to five championships, 22 postseason appearances and nearly 1,300 regular season wins since becoming the team's coach in 1996, manned the sidelines as an assistant.
Ahead of the game, NBA.com's Michael C. Wright reported via Twitter that the Spurs will be rotating coaches for the three exhibition games leading up to the league's official restart of the 2019-20 campaign on July 30. Following Hammon's turn against the Bucks, Mitch Johnson will lead against the Brooklyn Nets on July 25, followed by Will Hardy, who will direct the team against the Indiana Pacers on July 28.
Although Popovich has elected to give multiple staffers an opportunity to manage his team in Orlando, Hammon's turn at the helm is nonetheless significant as she has been cited as a prime candidate to become the NBA's first-ever female head coach.
For his part, Pau Gasol, a six-time All-Star and two-time champion who played under Hammon and Popovich with the Spurs from 2016 to 2019, wrote glowingly of Hammon and her coaching ability in an open letter about female coaches published via The Players' Tribune in 2018.
"If you think I'm writing this to argue why Becky is qualified to be an NBA head coach … well, you're mistaken. That part is obvious: One, she was an accomplished player — with an elite point guard's mind for the game. And two, she has been a successful assistant for arguably the greatest coach in the game. What more do you need?" he wrote.
"But like I said — I'm not here to make that argument. Arguing on Coach Hammon's behalf would feel patronizing. To me, it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach."
As shared by The Inquisitr in 2019, Hammon was also featured in a Nike ad celebrating female athletes.
Hammon has already made history as a woman on the sidelines in professional sports on multiple occasions. When she was hired by San Antonio in 2014, she became the first woman to be a full-time assistant in any of North America's four major professional sports. Then, in 2015, she became the first female head coach at the NBA's annual summer league.