As noble as the NBA’s efforts are on being near the forefront of the fight for social justice, there still remains one glaring dark spot on the Association’s efforts – the Association itself.
As we know, Becky Hammon, assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich and all-time WNBA great, has more than proven that she can be a head coach at the NBA level. She once coached a Summer League team to a championship and there is a reason as to why she is a candidate for many an NBA head coaching job when said position comes open.
So why has she yet to be hired? Hammon is clearly ready to be a head coach. Why are NBA teams acting so skittish about the idea of a woman leading a men’s team when certain men that do not have anywhere near Hammon’s resume get tapped for job after job after job.
The latest culprit in the NBA’s latest game happens to be the Portland Trail Blazers – one of several teams with a coaching opening after the departure of Terry Stotts following a 2020-21 season where Portland has all but turned into the Damian Lillard and Friends Show.
As soon as it was known that there was an opening in Portland, reports began to surface about who the finalists for the job could be – and who Lillard’s preference was. Lillard reportedly preferred Jason Kidd, but the finalists for the job included Hammon as well as ex-Blazer and ex-Detroit Pistons great Chauncey Billups.
As soon as Billups’ name began being uttered alongside Hammon, one had to believe that the NBA would do it again. Dangle Hammon’s name out there in an effort to generate positive public relations, yet pass her over again for another man.
Like clockwork, as it turned out, the Blazers indeed went with Billups over Hammon, according to reports. Another team tasked with making what would be one of the most progressive sports hires in history instead decides to think small and stick to the status quo. Really forward thinking you got there, Adam Silver.
For a men’s league that constantly latches onto the WNBA’s mantle of being an agent for social change, this was anything but a good look for the NBA – and its progressive image. Even though Hammon is almost certain to be the successor to Popovich if and when he retires from his perch in San Antonio, it is clear that Hammon does not want to wait until Coach Pop puts away his whiteboard to prove herself as an NBA coach. It is also clear that Popovich has more than given his blessing to Hammon to interview for any NBA job that comes available.
But instead of giving Hammon the head coaching position she is more than deserving of, it appears that NBA teams such as Portland are more interested in generating positive public relations by using Hammon’s name as a candidate rather than going all in and hiring her. Whichever NBA team, whether it is San Antonio or another of the 29 alternative NBA franchises that does will receive deserved positive PR for actually hiring her instead of sticking to the norm.
Public relations-wise, the past week was anything but a good week for the NBA. Not only does it appear that Billups will be the next coach of the Trail Blazers over the more-than-qualified Hammon, but Kidd, who once had a domestic violence incident (and got arrested for it) in 2001 was hired by the Dallas Mavericks as its head coach (in a possible effort to keep Luka Doncic happy) after Rick Carlisle announced his departure.
And speaking of transgressions – Billups was once accused of rape in 1997. Two men accused of abusing women get head coaching jobs yet an actual woman gets slighted. When did the NBA turn into the NFL overnight?
The Kidd hire may be even worse than the Billups hire. Dia Miller, a journalist who covers the Trail Blazers even posted a thread on Twitter about how she, who recalled her own experiences as a domestic violence victim, was faced with the difficult choice of covering a team who indirectly made her relive her own traumatic experiences. In one of the tweets, she mentioned that she would be unfollowing the Mavs on social media as well as other Mavs-affiliated accounts.
With all of the lip service teams and leagues love to pay about making their sports more welcoming for women, the NBA and its teams need to do less talking the talk and more walking the walk. Because hiring individuals like Kidd and Billups with their less-than-perfect backgrounds while messing over an actual woman is an indication that plenty of Association bigwigs say something that is opposite of the progressive message NBA suits say in public.
Sorry, NBA. But we are not taking this lying down. We are making you practice what you preach. A league that wants to be welcoming to women does not make its women that are part of its fanbase recall flashbacks to those traumatic moments in their lives when they were treated as less than human beings. It listens to those women and realizes that how someone is as a person to the opposite sex is much more important than mundane accomplishments on the court.
Want to flex your progressive credentials, NBA? Do the same thing that you did with Swin Cash and Sue Bird with front office positions as well as Kristi Toliver with an assistant coaching job.
Just hire HER already. She’s ready – and so should you.