San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has watched Becky Hammon's growth on the sideline the past eight NBA seasons.
With Hammon officially becoming a head coach for the first time Friday, taking over the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces, Popovich said it's time for her to write this new chapter in her basketball career.
"It always changes when you move over one seat," Popovich said Friday of Hammon, who began as a Spurs assistant in the fall of 2014 after retiring as a WNBA player. "Nobody knows what the future is going to be. But she has all the attributes to be a heck of a head coach. She's been important to our program from Day 1 when I brought her on board.
"She's interviewed for a few jobs in the NBA, and she would have been more than qualified and done a great job, but it didn't work out. That happens to everybody who's out there interviewing. You don't get what you want right off the bat."
In a statement released by the Aces, Hammon called the chance to be back in the league where she spent 16 seasons as a player a great opportunity.
"This is where I come from, and I wouldn't be me without the W," Hammon said. "I'm thrilled to be able to give back and lead this next group of women."
Hammon played eight seasons with the San Antonio Stars, but the franchise moved to Las Vegas for the 2018 season and became the Aces. Raiders owner Mark Davis purchased the Aces in January, and he got to spend time with Hammon and her family in September when Las Vegas retired her jersey.
"This is an exciting day for the Aces organization," Davis said in the Aces' statement. "From the moment I met Becky Hammon, I was hopeful that one day she would rejoin the family. I just never imagined it would happen this soon."
Hammon, who plans to continue working for the Spurs for the time being, will replace Bill Laimbeer. He coached the Aces for the team's first four years in Las Vegas, leading it to three playoff appearances, including the 2020 WNBA Finals. Laimbeer will keep working for the Aces, including assisting the team's roster makeup for the 2022 season, which begins in May. Teams can begin negotiating with free agents in January, and the signing period begins Feb. 1. Aces center Liz Cambage is an unrestricted free agent.
"This is the best possible scenario for the Las Vegas Aces," Laimbeer said in the statement. "It takes a tremendous amount of energy to be a head coach. In Becky, the team now has somebody who can serve in that role for the long term, which is great for both the players and the franchise."
Hammon has developed good working relationships with Spurs players over the years, including guard Dejounte Murray.
"Becky is a great person, a respectful person," Murray told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "She's somebody you can go to and talk about things, not just basketball. She's interested in your life. And her career as a player speaks for itself. She can relate to the players."
Davis previously brought in former LSU coach Nikki Fargas as team president and ex-WNBA player Jennifer Azzi as chief business development officer.
"We're very excited to have Becky return to the Aces' franchise as our head coach," Fargas said. "Her success in the sport of basketball as both a player and a coach is unparalleled, and fueled by a tenacious desire to be the best she can possibly be. We have one of the most talented rosters in the WNBA, and Becky is the absolute best person to lead this team."
Hammon previously had a chance to be a head coach in the NBA Summer League in 2015, leading the Spurs to the title.
"I have so many incredible memories and proud moments in San Antonio from my time with both the Stars and the Spurs," Hammon said. "From the fans and players to coaches and staff, everyone in the organization has treated me so well for so many years and the entire experience has been amazing.
"I'm especially thankful to Pop, who only cared about my potential, not my gender. He saw something special in me and was willing to invest the time and energy to help teach and develop a young coach."
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.