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San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is reportedly “closing in on a landmark deal” to join the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces as the team’s next head coach, according to Chantel Jennings and Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Hammon’s agreement with the Aces “will be a record-setting contract for a WNBA head coach,” per the report.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Hammon is set to sign a five-year deal and will finish out the season with the Spurs.
The 44-year-old enjoyed a legendary run as a player in the WNBA, making six All-Star teams and most recently being named one of the league’s 25 greatest players.
After her playing career ended in 2014, she immediately transitioned into a coaching role with the Spurs.
The Spurs promoted the South Dakota native to the front of their bench in June 2018, and it seemed like only a matter of time before she’d get a shot to run her own team in the Association. In December 2020, she replaced an ejected Gregg Popovich, making her the first woman to serve as acting head coach in an NBA regular-season game.
However, Hammon told ESPN’s LaChina Robinson in December she was open to coaching in the WNBA:
LaChina Robinson @LaChinaRobinson
I asked <a href=”https://twitter.com/BeckyHammon?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BeckyHammon</a> about the <a href=”https://twitter.com/nyliberty?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@nyliberty</a> head coach opening & she replied that her doors are open & don’t be surprised if she makes a return to the women’s game. <br><br>No woman has coached as many <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBA</a> games & played in as many <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WNBA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WNBA</a> games as Becky so this perspective is invaluable. <a href=”https://t.co/KnCsjQpUwr”>pic.twitter.com/KnCsjQpUwr</a>
Mike Budenholzer, James Borrego, Brett Brown and Mike Brown are all Popovich disciples who received head coaching gigs. Some were surprised to see Hammon passed over year after year and raised concerns over structural issues within the NBA.
Hammon told Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Pina she thought her long wait was simply the result of the scarcity of vacancies at any given time:
“I think you can throw the female, male thing out the door. There’s 30 jobs. They are incredibly hard to get. And when I say 30 jobs, not all 30 are available, right? So there’s like maybe four or five that are available. And the amount of pressure and scrutiny that comes with each of those jobs, they’re just really hard to get. … So for me, you know that process, I think I get better every time I go through it and walk through that door. But at the end of the day, an organization is gonna hire me because I’m the best coach for the job. And all the stuff that comes after that will come.”
Once the 2021-22 NBA season concludes, Hammon would’ve presumably been a candidate for various vacancies that open up. Perhaps she grew tired of waiting and preferred to take on the challenge of coaching in the WNBA now.
Becoming a successful coach in the W should only bolster her resume in the eyes of NBA executives if she wants to revisit that pursuit down the road.
Jennings and Charania reported Sunday that the Aces were interested in Hammon. The timing of the report was surprising since Las Vegas hadn’t announced the ouster of head coach Bill Laimbeer.
Laimbeer guided the franchise to the WNBA Finals in 2020 and helped the team finish with the second-most wins (24) in 2021. But some began to wonder whether his strategy was setting Vegas up for success in the playoffs.
The Aces attempted the fewest three-pointers in 2019, 2020 and 2021 as the offense ran through A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage. Eschewing the perimeter game to that extent seemed to put a cap on the team’s potential.
Sans Cambage, Las Vegas got swept by the Storm in the 2020 Finals, losing all three games by double digits. Last year, it fell to the Phoenix Mercury in the semifinals in five games.
The Aces already lost general manager Dan Padover and are now making a coaching change. That’s a surprising amount of turnover for an organization with so much recent success. In addition, the roster could look a lot different since both Wilson and Cambage are free agents.
The front office, coaching staff and lineup could be significantly reshuffled, but the sky-high expectations are likely to remain the same for Hammon in 2022.