San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon said she was ready to be a head coach, and the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces agreed with her. As for when a woman might get an NBA head-coaching job, Hammon isn't sure.
There are currently six other NBA assistants who are women, including Hammon's former New York Liberty teammate Teresa Weatherspoon, who is with the New Orleans Pelicans.
"NBA jobs are hard to get," Hammon said Monday when speaking to reporters on a video call. "In some ways, I feel like the NBA maybe is close. In other ways, I feel like they're a long ways off from hiring [a woman head coach]. I don't know when it could happen."
Hammon was officially named the Aces head coach Friday, although she will continue working with the Spurs for the remainder of the regular season. The WNBA season begins in May.
Hammon has interviewed for NBA head-coaching jobs, and was asked if that process had any influence on her going to the WNBA when a head-coach position was offered by Aces owner Mark Davis and team president Nikki Fargas.
"That is a loaded question. In some ways, I feel like I was very close," Hammon said about getting an NBA head-coaching job. "This was about me, personally, being ready to have a team and wanting to sit in that chair, and then being presented with an opportunity to do so.
"I never left out coming back to the WNBA because I love the WNBA. I'm passionate about the women in it in -- not only what they do on the court, but what they represent. And so I'm excited to give back."
Hammon thinks her time as an assistant to Gregg Popovich has prepared her for this opportunity.
"I've sat under arguably the best coach in basketball history," she said. "I've sat in on so many meetings, so many practices, so many preps for games. To continue to improve, I think you have to be a sponge throughout your whole career."
Hammon played 16 seasons in the WNBA, then moved to coaching with the Spurs after her retirement in 2014. Hammon, who turns 45 in March, said she didn't intend to leave the NBA until the Aces pursued her.
"A lot did go into this decision, a lot of sleepless nights," Hammon said. "I came to the conclusion that this was the best spot for me and my family, and an opportunity for me to sit in the big chair and be a head coach of a major professional sports league.
"I feel like I'm ready to have my own team. And this is the organization that made it very, very obvious they wanted me really, really bad. And so it's always good to be wanted."
The process, Fargas said, actually started when Hammon came to Las Vegas for her jersey retirement in September.
Hammon didn't play for the Aces, but for the San Antonio Stars, who relocated to Las Vegas for the 2018 season and were renamed. Davis, who bought the Aces in January, has made it a priority for the team to strengthen its ties to players who competed for the franchise when it previously was located in Utah and San Antonio.
Fargas said there wasn't a specific desire to replace Bill Laimbeer as coach, but that Hammon made such an impression on the visit that the Aces wanted to see if they could lure her to take over in Las Vegas.
"Being the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces is a step forward and a step in the right direction for myself and for women's basketball," Hammon said. "I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this opportunity that I have. There's something to being a head coach.
"I sat in a lot of [NBA] head-coaching interviews. Two things that people always said, 'You've only been in San Antonio, and you've never been a head coach.' Well, Mark Davis met me. Nikki met me. And they said, 'That's a head coach right now.'"
Laimbeer is remaining with the organization and will assist with the team's roster construction, along with Fargas and Hammon. An Aces spokesman said no one has the title of general manager for now.
The Aces were swept by Seattle in the 2020 WNBA Finals in the bubble in Bradenton, Florida. Hammon recalled that she watched that series closely. Las Vegas fell in the semifinals to Washington in 2019 and to Phoenix in 2021. The Aces are led by 2020 MVP A'ja Wilson, who is just 25.
"I do feel like implementing my offensive system and defensive system is something that I'm really looking forward to," Hammon said. "And I think that a championship is well within reach."