My 7-year old daughter is at an age where she's starting to realize women can do anything.
"Daddy, can girls be lifeguards, too?," she asked me during a vacation to the beach this year. "Of course!," I answered. "Girls can do anything that boys can."
It's one thing for me to say it, it's another thing for her to be able to see it happening right in front of her, and while Treveon Graham's 22 points stole the headlines in Richmond, it's Becky Hammon coaching the Spurs to the summer league title that jumped out to me personally. On Monday night, she led San Antonio to a 93-90 win over the Suns to claim the Las Vegas Summer League championship. After falling to the Knicks in their first game, the Spurs rattled off six straight wins on their way to the crown.
Hammon's basketball voyage saw her play at Colorado State in college, earning All-American honors. She would play in the WNBA, starting out with the New York Liberty, and eventually ending up with the San Antonio Silver Stars. She also suited up for Russia in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, after becoming a citizen of the country and played professionally there as well.
The Spurs haven't really publicized Hammon's journey into the NBA. Last season, she became the first ever full-time female assistant coach in the league, and this summer, became the first woman to serve as a head coach in the summer league.
Of course, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is quick to point out that Hammon was hired due to her hoops knowledge, and for no other reason. He says, as only Popovich can, that Hammon knows her basketball, so he doesn't see this situation as unique at all.
But it is unique, and because it's uncommon, it provides a spotlight that shines in order to teach that lesson we all learned growing up. You can do absolutely anything you want to do if you put your mind to it and work hard. It's a cliche to adults in the real world, but a valuable lesson to teach young impressionable kids.
Hammon also had a great group of players, and that certainly helps. "They listened, and they played really hard for me. I just really appreciate their attentiveness and alertness," she would tell ESPN. That's no surprise, seeing as the Spurs are viewed as one of the most disciplined teams in the NBA. It's certainly in the culture there, and a key trait when evaluating players to add to their roster.
Yes, it was the summer league, but Hammon not only coached a team of grown men with NBA talent, she won. She claimed a title as a woman on a stage dominated by men, and, exhibition or not, that's saying something. I will guarantee that we'll see more female coaches in the NBA, but right now, Hammon provides, in my opinion, one of the best role models in sports.
"Hey honey," I said to my daughter at lunch on Tuesday. "Guess what? A basketball team full of boys, the ones you see on TV, won a championship last night. The coach was a girl."
Her answer: "That's awesome, Daddy! I want to be a basketball coach."
Just another reason why sports are the best ever.