Today’s blog is written by PPI Development and Communications Intern, Max Mancher
There has been plenty of drama surrounding this NBA offseason. The biggest stars in the game were flying around the country trying to figure out the best move for their future. As such, the teams that had money to spend were working hard to bring the biggest names in the game to their city as they looked to contend for a title in the 2014-15 season. And while teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls have been very successful on the court, maybe the most significant offseason signing will not be suiting up for their team come opening day.
The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning NBA champions. For the past 15 years, the Spurs have been atop the western conference standings with all indication of staying there. Yet it is this team, led by visionaries such as Greg Popovich and RC Buford, that has made the biggest moves this summer. And no, I am not talking about their signing of pass first big man and former Most Improved Player, Boris Diaw. For even this lucrative $22 million signing pales in comparison to the implications of the Spurs newest coach and former WNBA star, Becky Hammon.
After having spent a good deal of time helping out with and observing the Spurs’ practices while recovering from an injury, the Spurs front office felt that she was qualified for a position as assistant coach. “I know Coach Pop has made it very clear to me that I’m being hired because of my basketball IQ and because I’m qualified,” she said. “He says it just so happens you are a woman.” And why should it not be this simple?
It should also not come as a surprise that it was RC Buford’s team that made such an impactful signing. RC who has been the General Manager for the Spurs since 2002 after 5 seasons as team
president is exactly the type of executive that one would expect to make such a move. Buford has long been involved with PeacePlayers International, sitting on the Board of Directors while also staying actively involved with trips to visit PPI – Middle East and South Africa.
Moreover, throughout his involvement with PPI, Buford has been an advocate for PPI’s efforts surrounding female participants and gender equality. PPI places special emphasis on bridging the gender gap in athletic participation in divided communities. Given the fact that a strong link has been found between girls’ participation in sport and higher academic achievement and future professional success, PPI aims to bring athletic opportunities to girls who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise.
This provides some context for how this situation was handled by everyone working with the Spurs. It was casual.
Hammon has simply shown that not only does she have a great basketball mind, but that she is able to teach and coach players extremely well. And while this one signing will not radically change the
game of basketball overnight, what this signing does is increase the meritocracy within the NBA, regardless of gender. And while the change may be gradual, women will hopefully now feel more confident pursuing positions that they are qualified for, regardless of who traditionally occupies that role. This is why the signing of Becky Hammon is so significant.
To the Spurs, they have hired a coach that they believe will put them in the best position to compete for another championship title but it is very clear that this decision goes well beyond the x’s and o’s. It is no coincidence that such a hiring was made by a team put together in large part by RC Buford, a man who has demonstrated his commitment not only to gender equality but to sports as a catalyst for change.
For more information on Becky Hammon: