Friday, September 5, 2014

There are some athletes who have an amazing high school and collegiate career that leads them to not only getting drafted, but having the kind of professional career that makes a statement and crystalizes what they did before. When you have that same kind of career and you do not get drafted you can go get discouraged and surrender or you can rise up and continue to work and recommit yourself to achieveing the kind of greatness that you want. That is the kind of committment Rebecca Lynn "Becky" Hammon put in and it resulted in a 16-year career in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars. A career that came to an end back on Aug. 24 when the Stars lost to the then defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx in the Western Conference Semifinals 2-0. While her playing career on the hardwood which began at Stevens High School in Rapid City, South Dakota, here hometown and then onto Colorado State and the aforementioned WNBA is over, her basketball journey will continue as an assistant coach at the highest level.

Back on Aug. 5, the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs hired Hammon as an assistant coach making her the first female to be a full-time assistant on an NBA coaching staff.

The Spurs added to their coaching staff a six-time WNBA All-Star; the fourth best scorer in WNBA history with 5,841 points; the fourth all-time assist leader in WNBA history with 1,708; the second best shot maker from three-point range in WNBA history with 829 and her 450 career games played is the sixth most in WNBA history.

Prior to Hammon, there had been only one other woman to say she worked on with NBA players is Lisa Boyer. The current assistant coach for the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks was brought in by the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Lucas to help out with practices and some home games, but was not paid by the Cavs and did not travel with the team.

"Congradulations to Becky on today's announcement,"Boyer said in a statement back on Aug. 5.

"It's a great thing for her and for the NBA. I am stilll so thankful to John Lucas for giving me the opportunity to work with his NBA team during my time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. His staff and players welcomed me as a coach, and it was an incredible experience for me to spendthat season with them."

According to a story on, Hammon will be working on scouting, game plans and the day-to-day.

"I'm just incredibly grateful obviously to the Spurs organization," Hammon said in press conference back on Aug. 5.

"Nothing in my life has really been easy. I've always been someone who did it uphill. I'm up for challenges. I'm up for being outside the box, making tough decisions and challenges. ... And I'm a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. Throw all of those in there and this was the perfect challenge and opportunity."

What allowed this break in the glass ceiling to come about is last season, Hammon suffered a torn ACL that kept her from playing a season ago. In the aftermath, Hammon turned a tough moment into an opportunity.

She attended Spurs practices, film sessions and sat behind the bench at home games. She has also been a good friend with the top guns of the Spurs in guard Tony Parker and forward Tim Duncan since they competed in an NBA All-Star shooting competition six years ago.

On top of that the Spurs have been for a long time a organization in the NBA that thought outside of the box. They have always been a team, led by head coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford of did things in a bold way.

They were a team that no problem of adding to their coaching staff as well as drafting players that are outside the United States. This past off-season alone, they hired the legendary European coach Ettore Messina as an assistant. Along with Parker, who is from France and Duncan from the Virgin Islands, the Spurs other mainstays like guard Manu Ginobili from Argentina, forward Boris Diaw from France and guard Patty Mills from Australia all were born and have played basketball for other countries.

More than anything else, this Spurs are an organization, which believes in having people that not only play or coach the game at a high level, but have a high IQ, who believe in doing things the right way and who understand that getting better is an everyday thing that requires dedication.

That is something Hammon understands better than anything else. Even with the decorated career that she had in high school and at Colorado State, she went undrafted and that did not stop her.

She got better and better and became a big part of the Liberty and the Silver Stars and along the way earned the respect of players and coaches on her team as well as the opponent.

"I love seeing people I've been involved with have an opportunity in life to have these types of experiences," head coach Dan Hughes, who has coached Hammon the past eight seasons said.

"This one is unique. She's ready for it, she'll do a great job."

The Spurs are also an organization that does not point their fingers saying look what we did. They just do it because they want to do what is best for them to get better and win.

That was on the mind of tennis legend Billie Jean King when she congradulated the Spurs on the hiring of Hammon when she said that they acquired "a key person based on their qualifications and not allowing gender to play role in their decision."

Basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, who coached in the NBA's Developmental League five years ago and now serves as the GM of the Texas Legends also weighed in on the Spurs hire by saying that, "They do things out of respect."

"And the fact that coach Popovich has this much respect for Becky's basketball IQ, for how she handles herself with the guys in practice, her ability to relate to them, I'm sure he saw so much when she was working with them last fall. I'm sure he didn't hire her because she was a woman. I'm sure he hired her because she was the best person for the job."

"You just keep putting one foot in front of the other and good things happen."

This moment has been a long time coming for female basketball players and coaches who have a taste of coaching at basketball's highest level.

Current sideline reporter for the Charlotte Hornets and the host of Hornets Live on Fox Sports Carolinas Stephanie Ready once served as an assistant coach on the Coppin State men's basketball team, here alma mater and she also served as an assistant coach for the then Greenville Groove of the now defunct National Basketball Development League from 2001-2003.

"That's the first step, having the precedent set is very important," Ready said.

"A lot of it also is now women will know these jobs are avaliable. In the past, a lot of women probably didn't try because they didn't think it was possible. I think you may very well see an increase in seeing some females hired."

While Hammon may be the first female assistant coach to be on a NBA sideline, she has made it a point that she expects to be treated like any other assistant coach and that she got this opportunity because of what she has done in her remarkable career.

"It's never been about the woman thing. It's been about,'Hey she's got a great basketball mind and we'd love to have her," Hammon said.

Each person's journey begins with a single step. They may face trials and tribulations along the way. Success comes with hard work and dedication and with that hopefully respect from others. Becky Hammon's road to where she stands now was not an easy one. It took dedication and committment when no one else was looking for her to be where she is at now and she would not have it any other way.

"I wouldn't change anything. I wouldn't change where I went to school. I wouldn't change my failures along the way or any of the successes, " Hammon told ESPN's Holly Rowe back on Aug. 24, where she had 12 points and four assists in the Stars' Game 2 home loss to the Lynx in the West Semifinals on Aug. 24.

From Stevens High School to the sidelines of the San Antonio Spurs Becky Hammon may be the first, but hopefully she is not the last. Hammon understands though she is not in this position without the likes of King, Lieberman and Ready.

"Even me sitting here today, to be able to have the playing experience that I have as a professional basketball player, women went before me to pave that trail," Hammon said.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 8/6/14 7 a.m. edition of "Good Morning America" on ABC with Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Amy Robach, Lara Spencer and Ginger Zee, report from Mara Schiavocampo; 8/24/14 7 p.m. contest (State Farm Halftime Report with Chris Hassel) of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Atlanta Dream and the Chicago Sky;;