Last August, former WNBA star Becky Hammon made history as the first woman to become a full-time assistant coach in the NBA.
Earlier this month, she was named the first woman to ever coach an NBA summer league team.
And on Monday, Hammon led the summer league San Antonio Spurs to a 93-90 win over Phoenix to capture to the third ever Las Vegas Summer League title.
The win was the first for the Spurs and the first time a women’s coach had led an NBA team to a championship at any level.
“You never know what your journey has in store,” Hammon told Sports Illustrated. “You just work hard and keep your nose to the grind. You do things the right way, you treat people the right way and good things happen.”
Second-year forward Kyle Anderson was named Most Valuable Player of the LVSL after averaging 21.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 27.3 minutes per game.
NBA D-League veteran Jonathan Simmons earned MVP of the championship game after scoring 23 points. After averaging 17.0 points and 1.7 steals in 24.6 minutes per game, the 25-year-old Simmons was offered his first NBA contract.
“I really love [Hammon], and I’ve only known her a couple days,” Simmons said. “She’s a real cool coach. She’s a player coach. That’s something we all like.”
The Hammon-led Spurs dropped their first game against No. 4 draft pick Kristaps Porzingis and New York Knicks. From that point, San Antonio rattled off six straight wins, including three in the single-elimination LVSL tournament.
Hammon led a San Antonio roster that featured only four players with NBA experience and one first round pick: Anderson. Compare that to the Phoenix Suns, which boasted seven players with NBA experience and four first round picks.
LSVL games are shorter, 40 minutes versus 48 in a regulation game. But teams play a grueling seven-games-in-10-days schedule.
“They’ve been together for 17 days,” Hammon said. “They really started to jell the last two or three games. They listened, and they played really hard for me. I just really appreciate their attentiveness and alertness. They were tired, but they fought through."
Just being chosen to coach the Spurs’ summer league team was an honor in itself. Head coach Gregg Popovich always has one of the most experienced benches in the NBA, including former NBA player Ime Udoka and legendary European coach Ettore Messina.
“She’s a firecracker. She takes no prisoners. She’s got a great personality,” Popovich said last season. “She knows her stuff. She’s competitive.”
While Hammon is notable for being the first woman to coach as a full-time assistant, Popovich doesn’t see her skill set as much different than any other NBA coach.
“I don’t know if her perspective is unique,” Popovich said. “Becky knows what to do on a pick-and-roll just as much as what Tony Parker knows, so I don’t think it’s unique at all.”
The Spurs celebrated Hammon’s coaching victory with a Gatorade bath once she got into the locker room.
“I’m just thankful that [Popovich] trusted me with the guys in that locker room and that those guys trusted me back,” Hammon said.
Photos: John Locher/AP