Becky Hammon handles head-coaching duties in Spurs' preseason win
SAN ANTONIO -- Channeling a bit of Gregg Popovich's pretend surliness, assistant coach Becky Hammon shifted side to side Sunday in grey high heels, ready to slip away after the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Denver Nuggets 122-100.
"You'd never see me out here talking to you guys," Hammon joked.
But this time, she had no choice, as Hammon took over for Popovich as coach of the Spurs against the Nuggets and handled the coaching duties in the postgame news conference.
The exhibition victory over the Nuggets marked the first time that Hammon coached the regular Spurs team in the preseason. Hammon served the past two seasons as head coach of San Antonio's summer league team, which in 2015 captured the NBA Las Vegas Summer league title with the six-time WNBA All-Star at the helm.
Hammon coached the first half of Sunday's game, while assistant Will Hardy led the Spurs in the second half.
"It's an amazing opportunity for me," Hammon said. "But we're a teaching program, and that comes directly from [Popovich]. So for him to give us this opportunity and the guys here a different voice, that's what his [coaching] tree is kind of all about. It's mentoring and bringing people along."
It's common during the preseason for Popovich to skip games and hand off coaching duties to his assistants. The Spurs defeated the Sacramento Kings 113-93 on Friday, with Popovich hanging out in the stands with general manager R.C. Bufford and top assistant Ettore Messina as assistant coach Ime Udoka ran the show.
Against the Nuggets, Popovich again sat in the team box with Buford and Ettore as Hammon directed the squad, which was paced by a combined 41 points from LaMarcus Aldridge (21) and Bryan Forbes (20), who connected on 4-of-5 from long range.
Hammon joined San Antonio's coaching staff in 2014, becoming the first full-time paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff, and last year the former WNBA guard had her No. 25 jersey retired by the San Antonio Stars.
Hammon is the Stars' all-time leader in points per game (15.6), assists (1,133) and 3-point field goals (829).
She will be inducted into the San Antonio Spurs Hall of Fame as part of its 2018 class.
"For me, [assistant] Will Hardy, coach [James] Borrego and Ime [Udoka], it's a nice opportunity to get out there, hold the clipboard and kind of be in the action," Hammon said as she shifted toward the door leading to the Spurs locker room.
"My feet hurt, though."