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Becky Hammon on moving from NBA to WNBA: Las Vegas Aces saw me as ‘a head coach right now’

By Jill Martin, CNN

Glass-ceiling breaker Becky Hammon has interviewed for multiple NBA head coaching positions. She’s ready for the opportunity to be a head coach, but she hasn’t received an offer there.

Hammon — who was hired as the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history — now has that top job, and it’s in the WNBA to lead the Las Vegas Aces.

Hammon will continue to coach with the San Antonio Spurs through the remainder of the season before joining the Aces full time. She replaces Bill Laimbeer as the team’s head coach.

“This is a step forward,” Hammon said to reporters Monday on making the move from the NBA to the WNBA. “Being the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces is a step forward and a step in the right direction for myself, for women’s basketball, and I think I can’t emphasize the importance of this opportunity that I have. I think this is more advantageous for growth.

“There’s something to being a head coach. I’ve sat in a lot of (NBA) head coaching interviews, and two things people always said: ‘You’ve only been in San Antonio, and you’ve never been a head coach.’ I can tell you right now (owner) Mark Davis met me, (team president) Nikki (Fargas) met me and said, ‘That’s a head coach right now.'”

When The Athletic originally reported Hammon’s hiring, the outlet said that she will be the highest-paid WNBA head coach.

“When you have an owner who wants to uplift this league by showing the value, whether it’s the value of hiring someone like Becky, we’re recognizing talent, and we’re investing in the talent,” Fargas said Monday. “Coaches need to be paid, and they need to be at that level where we feel is very worthy of Becky’s contract.”

Hammon, a six-time WNBA All-Star in her 16-year playing career first with New York Liberty and then with the San Antonio Silver Stars, was the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history when hired by the Spurs in 2014. She previously has served as the Spurs’ head coach during Summer League, which is held during the offseason.

A year ago, she became the first woman to direct an NBA team as a head coach during the regular season, when she took over for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich when he was ejected during a game.

The Aces — who previously were the Silver Stars until the franchise moved to Las Vegas — retired Hammon’s jersey number in September.

Hammon said she initially had no intention to leave the NBA at this point, but she said she came to the conclusion this was the best move for her.

“This was the best spot for me and my family, an opportunity for me to sit in the big chair and be a head coach of a major professional sports league,” Hammon said. “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. It’s always good to be wanted. It quickly became evident to me that Las Vegas was the place for me.”

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