Becky Hammon Continued To Blaze A Trail For Women At Summer League Saturday

The San Antonio Spurs have long been hailed as one of the best franchises in all of professional sports, not only for their commitment to consistency, professionalism, and a certain ethos for how to play the game, but also in their social and cultural progressiveness as well. Namely, the fact that last summer, they made history by hiring retired WNBA star Becky Hammon, making her the first woman to land a full-time gig as an assistant coach in the NBA.

She continued to blaze a trail for women in the league Saturday by becoming the first woman to act as head coach at a Summer League game. Here’s what Hammon had to say to reporters about the gravity of the moment. Via ESPN’s J.A. Adande:

“I just think it’s important [for] society that women be rewarded for their brains just as much as any guy,” Hammon told reporters after Saturday’s game.

To me, it’s always about bigger picture. We want to make sure that when your wife or your daughter goes in for a job interview, she gets the same opportunity that a guy gets. I think that’s the bigger picture, that’s the bigger goal. Whether it’s basketball or in the army or in CEOs or in operating rooms, we want women there.”

What seems perfectly clear here is that head coach Gregg Popovich would have never hired anybody that he didn’t think was (perhaps overly) qualified for the job. Handing over the head coaching reins to Hammon for the Spurs’ Summer League schedule was just another testament to the faith he has in her abilities to helm a team. It remains to be seen whether Hammon will ultimately go onto become the first female head coach in the NBA someday, but she’s certainly helping lay the groundwork for that inevitable eventuality.

Still, it will likely be a long and arduous road ahead. Popovich has been generous about grooming fledgling coaches in the past, namely reigning Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer, but it also bears mentioning that Budenholzer was relegated to assistant coach for 16 years before ultimately being given his chance with the Hawks. That, along with the fact that the competition for head coach jobs around the NBA has and always will be fierce.

From a cultural standpoint, gender equality still has a long way to go in America. Just last fall, a research study on the gender pay gap in the work place showed that women still make, on average, only about 70 percent of what men make, regardless of similar educational background and professional experience. That same study, however, also showed that women are now much more likely than men to obtain higher education degrees. Women aren’t simply just as qualified as men for the same positions; in many cases, they’re more qualified. Yet the glass ceiling still persists.

Professional sports isn’t going to solve these types of social problems, but the sports world, and the NBA in particular, has always paralleled various social and cultural movements, whether it’s civil rights and integration or the de-marginalization of the LBGTQ community. Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and now Becky Hammon have each been an albatross for the coming seismic shift in public sentiment toward these subjects.

(via ESPN)