There wasn’t anything particularly momentous about the Spurs’ Wednesday night game against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers. San Antonio has found themselves this season in a sort of limbo, maybe not quite bad enough to head into a full rebuild but not exactly in a position to contend, especially in the loaded West.
Still, the Spurs will always play hard. They had gotten off to a solid 2-1 start to the season, and Gregg Popovich is just as likely to blow a gasket in a mid-week game in late December as he is in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. So it wasn’t totally a surprise when Pop got himself tossed midway through the second quarter for vehemently arguing a no-call after DeMar DeRozan appeared to get fouled as he went up for a lay-in.
But what makes the situation historic is what happened immediately after, when Pop signaled to assistant Becky Hammon to take the helm for the remainder of the contest, making her the first woman in NBA history to act as head coach.
Spurs assistant Becky Hammon filled in for an ejected Gregg Popovich.
She’s believed to be the first woman to act as head coach during an NBA regular-season game. pic.twitter.com/VyQqVNaPhc
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2020
This isn’t the first time Hammon and the Spurs have made history in breaking down gender barriers. A couple of years ago, the organization made Hammon the league’s very first woman to hold a full-time assistant coaching position, and many believe Hammon will one day become the first woman to head coach in the NBA on a full-time basis.
Asked about the momentous occasion after the game, Hammon acknowledged the gravity of the situation but said there was very little ceremony to how it went down, in typical Pop fashion.
Hammon said she found out she was taking over for Popovich after he was ejected when, “he pointed at me and said, ‘You got it.’” https://t.co/gdKNOz52Wr
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 31, 2020
Becky Hammon on how she knew it was going to be her stepping in for Pop: “He officially pointed at me. That was it. He said, ‘You got ’em.’ That was it. Very Pop-like. See? You guys get treated no differently than we do.”
— Matthew Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 31, 2020
Hammon also earned some well-deserved praise from LeBron James.
LeBron James, on Becky Hammon’s big moment: “It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets. She’s very passionate about the game. So congrats to her and congrats to the league.”
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 31, 2020
In addition, the loss will apparently be credited to Pop, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, leaving her record as head coach technically unblemished.
Becky Hammon takes over as Spurs head coach for the first time in a regular-season game after Gregg Popovich becomes the first NBA coach this season to be ejected.
San Antonio falls at home to the Lakers but the loss, per longstanding NBA bookkeeping rules, goes on Pop’s record
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 31, 2020