Becky Hammon and what her signing means for the Las Vegas Aces, the league and her future in the NBA

In August 2014, Becky Hammon she played her last game for the San Antonio Stars and took her leave of the WNBA to move into an assistant coaching role with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

Now, she is ending a five-year contract and returning to the WNBA, and indirectly to the franchise with which she spent eight of her 16 seasons as a player.

Hammon will take over as head coach of Las Vegas Aces and will try to lead them to their first WNBA title. The Aces were originally the Utah Starzz when the league launched in 1997. The franchise then moved to San Antonio in 2003, and finally to Las Vegas in 2018. The Aces paid tribute to Hammon last season by retiring his jersey, and now she will be the coach.

Bill Laimbeer has coached the Aces to a 77-45 record the past four seasons, losing in the WNBA semifinals in 2019 and 2021, and the Finals in 2020. While it’s unclear at this point what role, if is that he has one, he will have Laimbeer with the franchise, he has laid a very good base for the Aces. Can Hammon lead them across the finish line to a championship?

We break down what the move means for Hammon, the Aces, the WNBA and the NBA.

What style will Hammon bring to the Aces?

As a player, Hammon was highly respected. The story of her being undrafted in 1999 has always been an asterisk, because that was the year many former American Basketball League players entered the WNBA, which influenced the number of college players they were chosen in that draft.

Still, Hammon always used undrafted as another motivational chip, even though she had enough just being a 5-foot-6 middle school guard. But Hammon always believed in herself, and not long into her playing career in the WNBA, she made believers out of everyone. He was part of very good teams in both New York from 1999 to 2006 and San Antonio from 2007 to 2014, including four appearances in the WNBA Finals.

Hammon was fearless driving down the court, she could make great shots on the perimeter, she was very good at distributing the ball and she helped build the confidence of everyone around her.

As a coach, Hammon can get tough when she needs to, but she’s also an uplifting motivator. Laimbeer got on well with his superstar player, forward A’ja Wilson, so Hammon will cultivate that relationship.

Hammon has already worked a bit with Aces players like point guard Kelsey Plum, whom she met when Plum was a rookie in San Antonio in 2017 before the franchise moved to Las Vegas. Hammon has a lot to offer Aces shooting guards thanks to her own experience as a longtime perimeter player in the WNBA. But her years as an NBA coach put her in a good position to guide Las Vegas’ interior force as well.

What does this signing mean for the Aces?

Laimbeer has brought the franchise to the brink of a title. Former Aces general manager Dan Padover left in October to take over as general manager and executive vice president of the Atlanta Dream. Perhaps Laimbeer will move to the GM job, where he has experience from his previous jobs as WNBA head coach in Detroit and New York.

Owner Mark Davis, who bought the Aces in January, has already made several moves with the franchise, including adding former LSU coach Nikki Fargas as team president and former WNBA player Jennifer Azzi as director. developmental. He seems committed to the Aces being a gold-standard type franchise for the WNBA.

The Aces have one of the best young players in the league in Wilson, who was the 2020 MVP and is only 25 years old. She is currently a restricted free agent, and center Liz Cambage is an unrestricted free agent.

Plum had the best season of his WNBA career last year. She, Jackie Young and Dearica Hamby have been consistent contributors in recent years for the Aces. Chelsea Gray fit in well as a free agent in 2021, as did Angel McCoughtry in 2020. Hopefully, McCoughtry, who missed this season with a knee injury, is back strong for 2022. Whether or not Cambage returns, Las Vegas should be a strong contender again.

What does this move mean for Hammon’s future in the NBA?

Many assumed that Hammon was on her way to becoming an NBA head coach, as this was her eighth season as an assistant with the Spurs.

Now, while it seems less likely that Hammon will be the first woman to make that breakthrough, it’s hard to tell who it will be or when. If Hammon succeeds with the Aces and wins a championship, maybe she’ll return to the NBA, and maybe even be the first woman to lead a team. Or maybe she won’t come back at all.

Laimbeer left the WNBA during the 2009 season and then was in the NBA as an assistant with the Timberwolves from 2009 to 2012. But Laimbeer has said he thought he wouldn’t get a chance to be an NBA head coach, and he came back to the WNBA, with New York.

It’s very difficult to climb the coaching ladder in the NBA, and to put it bluntly, we can’t know for sure how many franchises have given Hammon a legitimate chance to win a head coaching job, instead of interviewing her.

Maybe this move to the Aces is an opportunity for her to prove herself in a different way. Or maybe it’s what suits you right now. Regardless, there will be excitement among WNBA fans to have her back.

It remains to be seen what coaching in the NBA means for women. Commissioner Adam Silver has pushed the league to bring in women in many different NBA roles, including as coaches, but it will still take a franchise to make a bold move to put a woman in charge as head coach.

Who are the favorites for the other two open WNBA head coaching jobs?

When work on the Liberty opened earlier this month, the franchise and Walt Hopkins parted ways. The idea was that maybe that franchise could attract Hammon. And he met with Liberty, according to the sources.

The favorite for the New York job now could be former Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello, who also parted ways with the Mercury this month. As for Phoenix, Mercury’s assistant Chasity Melvin and Sparks’ assistant Latricia Trammell are in the mix, and Trammell also interviewed in New York, according to sources.