For San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, final season had its ups and downs. Not solely did the group should navigate COVID-19 protocols and an impacted schedule, however they completed the season with a 33-39 report, ranked tenth within the Western Convention.
And but, it was throughout these powerful moments that she noticed her group come collectively and study from these experiences. Even amidst the losses, there was progress.
“I’d say in our ugliest stretch of basketball video games, I felt like our guys got here collectively essentially the most,” Hammon says over the telephone. “It didn’t lead to a number of wins—we had, gosh, 8-10 video games that’re determined by 5 or much less factors, which within the NBA is basically nothing. That’s a sport that may go both means. Loads of instances the ball didn’t bounce our means, however I believe even in which you could have some progress and a few studying experiences that may pay dividends down the highway. It hurts within the second, dropping shut video games, however progress and having a big-picture angle from a few of our youthful gamers will profit us down the highway.”
Hammon has served as an assistant coach on the Spurs since 2014, making her the primary feminine coach within the historical past of the NBA and a pioneer for ladies across the sport. She not too long ago was a finalist for the Portland Path Blazers head teaching place (which went to Chauncey Billups), and has expressed that it’s necessary that ladies are employed for head teaching positions primarily based on their “talent units”, not simply to “check a box.”
SLAM caught up with the six-time WNBA All-Star to study extra about her method to the sport, what she’s realized over time as a coach, and the perception she gave to Sue Hen a couple of years in the past again when Hen was working within the Denver Nuggets entrance workplace:
SLAM: Hey Becky! It’s an honor. How has your summer time and the offseason been to date?
BECKY HAMMON: It’s been busy, I imply it’s a fairly totally different summer time when it comes to I really feel like issues have sort of piled up on one another due to COVID and every little thing—with the Finals being late, the draft after which Summer time League. It’s simply been a bit of little bit of a whirlwind however, I’ve discovered a weekend right here or there to get away so I attempt to recharge the battery. But it surely’s positively been a singular yr throughout. I’m trying ahead to, hopefully, getting again to a bit of little bit of normalcy.
SLAM: You talked about recharging the battery. How have you ever been spending your free time?
BH: Effectively, any time I can get to an ocean I’ll be good. I received to the East Coast for a bit of bit, I’d like to get right down to Mexico and go fishing there earlier than we get began up. I don’t know if that may occur or not, however anyplace there’s water, I really feel like I can recharge.
SLAM: How did you’re feeling like this season went for you and the group?
BH: Yearly is totally different and distinctive. Particularly this final yr. Not simply [for] our group, however I do know that groups throughout the board and people have been met with some actually powerful challenges. We received hit with COVID-19 fairly good in late February, going into March, proper at a vital time with the condensed schedule. I felt prefer it hit us fairly onerous in direction of the backend of our schedule the place we have been on the highway, put in a bunch of video games that ought to’ve been performed, now you’re cramming them into an already crammed schedule.
We simply had a extremely tough highway, and I assumed our guys dealt with it like champs. They simply sort of rolled with the punches, but it surely was powerful. We performed each different day for about sixty some-odd days, and generally extra. So, it was a number of work for us, I used to be drained and I didn’t even run one step up the court docket. I can’t even think about how [tired] our guys have been, [but we] have been making an attempt to maintain them recharged and rejuvenated. So, given the circumstances, clearly, it was an enormous take a look at for us mentally and bodily, however I assumed over the course of the yr you noticed some youthful items step up and get some helpful time.
SLAM: You’ve been an assistant coach on the Spurs now for a minute now, what do you’re feeling such as you’ve realized over time?
BH: What I’ve realized over time is, clearly you at all times wish to win, however generally through the dropping [moments], it’s actually about trimming the fats and getting actually again right down to fundamentals. I believe lots of people’s tendencies, whether or not you’re a participant or a coach, [is that] you sort of [get] withdrawn, however I believe these are the instances whenever you actually have to start out giving extra of your self to different folks and to the job. That sort of goes towards nature, you sort of wish to clam up, [and] I believe in these conditions you get extra and it finally ends up understanding higher for everyone.
SLAM: Are you able to elaborate on that?
BH: It’s a job that calls for a number of time. One in all my greatest challenges as a coach, and as a mother is time administration. I’m in all probability a horrible sister and a horrible buddy [laughs] for about six or seven months out of the yr as a result of the job and every little thing sort of consumes you. [But] once I’m dwelling, I attempt to be dwelling and be current with my youngsters.
That point administration piece is big, and I believe gamers undergo this, too. If you begin to wrestle, you wish to do it extra your self and, like I mentioned, that’s the time when it’s important to make everyone else round you higher, and then you definately get higher in that course of. It simply helps the entire group transfer ahead.
So, whether or not you’re a participant or a coach, I believe that give again to the group turns into the larger sum of the entire.
SLAM: Are you able to describe your method to the sport and your teaching type?
BH: Having been a former participant that’s at all times within the entrance of my thoughts. I attempt to put myself of their footwear. I’m any person who tries to, within the warmth of the second [in] the sport, give them info or directions that may assist them within the second…I attempt to be some eyes on the market for them and see issues that perhaps they weren’t seeing. It’s totally different watching from the aspect [lines].
I’d say I’m a player-first sort of coach. I imagine in teaching the complete particular person, not simply the athlete. Meaning each mentally and personally, so I attempt to be hands-on with them and attempt to be within the battle with them.
SLAM: When did you first begin fascinated with going into teaching?
BH: I’d say I’m vertically challenged for a basketball participant and sometimes at all times the smallest particular person. So, I needed to do my homework and do issues a bit of bit unorthodox in a way of angles and stuff that I took. So, I believe studying the sport and seeing the sport in another way, I wasn’t any person that needed to rely on my athleticism, I needed to rely on my mind greater than something. I actually realized find out how to research the sport. Some persons are greater, stronger, and sooner and that’s adequate for a very long time, [but] for me, that was by no means the case. It was at all times a bit of little bit of a chess match, for me.
I’ve at all times been an extension of a coach, simply due to the way in which that I believe. If you happen to speak to any coach that’s coached me, I’d hope that they are saying the identical factor. You’d should ask them. However, I used to be dabbling and stepping into some tv [broadcasting] once I [also] began doing, I’d name it an internship, I don’t suppose the Spurs would name it that, however I used to be displaying up day-after-day and sitting in on all of the conferences [while] doing TV on the aspect. I bear in mind I used to be doing a ladies’s basketball sport and on the finish of the day, I used to be sitting there with the play by play and the dropping coach walks by way of the gymnasium and one other man goes, doesn’t it suck to be a coach? That’s the most effective factor about broadcasting is that you just by no means have to go away the gymnasium a loser.
And, instantly I used to be like, yeah this ain’t for me…I’d relatively be within the combat. After I take into consideration my life and the imprint I wish to go away, it’s concerning the affect and impacting folks. It’s all about folks, on a regular basis for me. It’s concerning the journey and the folks that you just meet. And for me, the best folks in my life weren’t folks on TV, however my teammates, my coaches, those that have been within the battle. I’d relatively be within the battle than speaking about those that have been within the battle.
So, for me proper there I used to be like, I’d relatively combat, be within the battle and lose than be on the sidelines. That’s simply sort of how I’m wired.
SLAM: That’s positively a testomony to your greatness and the way you’ve been such a pioneer, particularly for ladies across the sport who aspire to enter teaching. A couple of years in the past, the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird said that you gave her some coaching advice while she was working as a basketball operations assistant for the Denver Nuggets, particularly about scouting and studying participant personnel. Are you able to inform us extra about that dialog?
BH: There’s one factor that WNBA and NBA gamers have in widespread, and it’s that they’re basketball junkies. The lads watch and assist the ladies, and the ladies watch and assist the lads. Simply speaking with Sue, it was extra of to get into the nuts and bolts of the personnel and the way sure coaches, types and the intricacies that [even] I needed to study. After I’m watching a sport, I might let you know one by way of eight or 9, however I’m not going to have the ability to checklist 10-15 guys on the roster, and to me that was a studying curve—studying the League, studying the personnel after which the totally different teaching types.
It’s actually onerous to know if you’re a participant or nonetheless are [a player]. If you’re a participant and also you’re in that place, you sort of really feel like your goal till you’re within the place of constructing selections. And then you definately’re like, man, I in all probability had a extra egocentric view of every little thing than I understood, or I used to be able to understanding. I believe whenever you step outdoors and also you begin teaching, you don’t have something individually on the road, it’s nearly successful. I believe that’s whenever you discover the nice ones, too, as a result of they perceive that mindset early on and so they get it of their enjoying profession. [For coaches], on the finish of the day, you’re judged on wins and losses and it turns into about successful, so any sure means you’re feeling a couple of participant or a play, the system, no matter it could be, I really feel like as a participant you’re feeling such as you’re goal however you’re actually not since you’re on that different aspect.
Lastly, I’d simply say for gamers: play so long as you possibly can [laughs]. As a result of whenever you go into these different professions it’s much more time-consuming. Hoop so long as you possibly can! Hoop till the wheels fall off as a result of then the actual world hits.
SLAM: Talking of Sue and the Storm, they’ll face off towards the Connecticut Solar tonight within the WNBA Commissioner Cup championship sport (stream it live on Amazon Prime Video at 9 p.m. ET). Can we get an unique Becky Hammon-scouting report or your ideas on the upcoming sport?
BH: I’m going to provide you zero scouting report ideas [laughs] however I received dawgs on either side. Curt Miller coached me in faculty so I at all times discover it onerous to cheer towards him, and clearly, Sue has been a longtime buddy and I’m at all times cheering for her to do nice. I understand that they’re getting back from Tokyo, her, Breanna [Stewart] and Jewell Loyd. I solely count on greatness from that aspect of the ball, and we’ll see what occurs! We’ll see what Curt can stir as much as defend top-of-the-line combos that perhaps we’ve seen in ladies’s basketball with these three.
Pictures through Getty Photos.