LAS VEGAS – Becky Hammon already made history when she became the first female head coach in NBA summer league.
Leading the San Antonio Spurs to the Las Vegas Summer League championship just made the experience that much sweeter.
Hammon coached the Spurs to a 93-90 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the title game on Monday night.
“It was a grind,” Hammon said. “They’ve been together for 17 days. 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.”
The Spurs participated in both the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues, but Hammon served as the head coach only in the higher profile Vegas event.
The Spurs lost the opener to the New York Knicks, and then reeled off six straight victories.
Jonathon Simmons scored 23 points and took home MVP honors for the championship game. Treveon Graham added 22 points for the Spurs.
“It’s amazing. It was a humbling experience,” Simmons told NBATV of playing for Hammon. “For all of us. I really love her and I’ve only known her a couple days. She’s a real cool coach. She’s a player coach. That’s something we all like.”
Last year the Spurs made Hammon the first female full-time assistant coach in league history. Earlier this summer they told her she would lead the team in Las Vegas.
“She’s a firecracker, she takes no prisoners, she’s got a great personality,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said during a visit to Minnesota in the regular season. “She knows her stuff. She’s competitive.”
The Spurs have worked hard not to make too much of their hiring of Hammon. Popovich has said time and again that she was hired because of her coaching acumen and not because the team was looking to help a woman break the glass ceiling.
“I don’t know if her perspective is unique. It’s women instead of men, but it’s the same game,” 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 players gave Hammon a Gatorade bath during the celebration in the locker room, and the Spurs were the third team to win the Vegas Summer League tournament, following the Warriors in 2013 and Kings in 2014.
“You never know what your journey has in store,” Hammon said, according to 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. … I’m just thankful that [Popovich] trusted me with the guys in that locker room, and that those guys trusted me back.”