The San Antonio Spurs didn't shake up their roster this offseason. Their coaching staff is a different story.
The NBA champions announced the hiring veteran WNBA player Becky Hammon as an assistant coach Tuesday. Hammon is the second female assistant coach in NBA history.
"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement released by the team. "Having observed her working with our team this past season, I'm confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs."
Hammon served an "internship" with the Spurs last season, working with the coaching staff and players while rehabbing from a knee injury. Currently a member of the San Antonio Stars and in her 16th WNBA season, Hammon announced on July 23 that she would retire as a player at end the 2014 season.
Hammon joins a select group of women to coach men's basketball at a high level. Lisa Boyer was part of John Lucas' staff in Cleveland during the 2001-02 season. Bernadette Mattox was the first female on a college Division I staff, serving as an assistant for Rick Pitino at Kentucky in the early 1990s. Nancy Lieberman became the first female head coach for a men's professional team with the D-League Texas Legends in 2009-10.
Lieberman, who has known Hammon since her college days at Colorado State, said the hire is a "great thing for basketball."
"The NBA has been a leader in diversity in everything from former players in the front office to ownership to women refereeing," said Lieberman, currently the Legends assistant general manager. "It doesn't surprise that the NBA or the Spurs would do this. I'm really proud of them. There's a reason Coach Popovich is a genius. He's a fair guy and he doesn't care if you're a guy or a girl if he thinks you can help his team
"I don't think it's going to be a one-off. I think that other teams will look at it and say we would like to have someone with a different perspective and relatability to our players and our staff, and if a women is qualified they'll hire more. This is an incredible day for the NBA, for women and certainly for Coach Popovich, the Spurs and Becky Hammon."
Hammon was named one of the WNBA's Top 15 Players of All-Time in 2011. She ranks seventh in WNBA history in points (5,809), fourth in assists (1,687) and sixth in games (445). A six-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon has spent the last eight seasons with the Stars. She is the Stars' all-time leader in assists (1,112) and 3-pointers (493), while ranking second in franchise history in points (3,442) and games (218).
Hammon has appeared in 445 regular season WNBA games, averaging 13.1 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 28.0 minutes. She has earned All-WNBA First Team honors twice (2007 and 2009), and was named to the All-WNBA Second Team in 2005 and 2008.
A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon wasn't selected in the 1999 WNBA Draft. She signed with the New York Liberty in 1999 before being traded to the Stars in 2007.
Now she's on the staff of the defending champs. The Spurs also hired European coaching legend Ettore Messina as an assistant earlier this summer.