Hammon: Hire me on merit, not to ‘check a box’

LAS VEGAS — Becky Hammon can’t wait for the time when it’s normal for women to interview for head-coaching positions in the NBA and their gender isn’t the story.

“It’s huge and important. It’s something that can’t be [checking] the box,” the Spurs assistant told The Associated Press. “You have to hire the best person. Half the world’s population hasn’t been tapped for their mind and ability and skill sets in the sports world. It’s something that needs to change.”

Hammon is entering her eighth season as an assistant and has been interviewed for several head-coach openings but hasn’t gotten an offer to be the first woman to lead a NBA team.

“There’s 30 jobs and they are incredibly hard to get,” Hammon said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “When I saw there are 30 jobs, not all 30 are available, so I’m really talking about three or four and they are really hard to get.”

While Hammon would love to be the first, she hopes it’s for the right reasons.

“Please don’t hire me to check a box. That’s the worst thing you can do for me,” she said. “Hire me because of my skill sets and coaching, who am I as a person, hire me for those.”

Hammon was a finalist for the Portland Trail Blazers job, which went to Chauncey Billups.

“I can’t speak for organizations across the league and the whole sports world. I can tell you they were asking me legitimate coaching questions,” the 44-year-old said. “When you get to this level, you’ve got to hire the best person for the job and the person who fits your organization the best.”

Hammon spoke from Las Vegas, where she was watching the NBA summer league, but on Thursday her eyes will be on Phoenix, the site of the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup championship game between Seattle and Connecticut, which will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

“It’s a really good idea. Another opportunity for people to see these women compete at the highest level,” she said. “It’s not foreign to women playing overseas. The WNBA players are used to it.”

She played in a few cup championships while competing overseas during the winters.

“They are always fun, always bonuses in everyone’s contract. That was overseas,” she said. “Put a little something extra on the line.”

While Hammon is excited about the game, not all the players are thrilled by the timing. Five of the Storm’s players were at the Tokyo Olympics, including stars Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird, who helped the U.S. win a seventh consecutive gold medal.

“Obviously it’s not the best for us,” Stewart said in Tokyo. “We’ll see what happens.”

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