Sixers

The case for and against Becky Hammon as Sixers head coach

Sixers

For the first time since 2013, the Sixers are searching for a new head coach. 

With the team deciding to move on from Brett Brown, we’re continuing our series analyzing potential candidates to replace Brown with Becky Hammon.

We’ve looked at the following coaches so far: 

Hammon is expected to interview for the Pacers’ head coaching job, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski

Let's look at the case for and against hiring her as the Sixers' next head coach:

The case for Hammon 

The first female full-time NBA coach, Hammon, 43, has an illustrious background. She was a tremendous point guard, making six WNBA All-Star teams after going undrafted (despite being a three-time All-American at Colorado State), and she's earned respect for the work she’s done on Gregg Popovich’s staff since 2014.

Pau Gasol gave as strong an endorsement for Hammon as possible in a 2018 piece in The Players' Tribune, praising her basketball intellect and clear communication.

“I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach,” Gasol wrote. “I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

 

Veteran Danny Green told The Denver Post’s Mike Singer in June that Hammon is one of the five best coaches he’s ever had.

Popovich’s top assistants split up scouting and game planning for the Spurs’ opponents, which is helpful preparation for future head coaching jobs. Hammon’s experiences make her well-equipped to handle individual player development, overarching strategy and granular details. There are no obvious gaps in knowledge or ability. Her resume is similar to Udoka, the lead assistant on Brown’s staff this season, an assistant under Popovich for seven seasons and reportedly a contender for the Bulls and Sixers jobs. One of the main differences — no disrespect to Udoka — is that Hammon was a much better player. 

Finally, we’ll note that Hammon won a 2015 Las Vegas Summer League championship as the Spurs’ head coach and also coached summer league in 2016 and 2019. The impression here, based on Hammon’s resume, what we’ve seen from her on the sidelines and what we’ve heard about her, is that she’s a natural, proven leader who works well with both players and coaches.

The case against Hammon 

The Sixers might prefer a candidate who’s already had success as an NBA head coach. That’s not to say previous head coaching experience should be an automatic prerequisite for any NBA head job — that would eliminate a ton of strong candidates, and the Nets just hired Steve Nash, a man with no coaching experience at all — but it’s inevitably a factor in most searches.

For the Sixers in particular, the team might want more of a “sure thing," even though that’s a tenuous notion in coaching, one that’s nearly impossible to define with precision. Still, there’s something to be said for having led teams deep into the playoffs before, as Lue and Van Gundy have. 

Unfortunately, the idea of hiring Hammon as a head coach will be looked at by some parties as risky and unconventional solely because no woman has ever been an NBA head coach before. Her gender obviously should not exclude her from any good search, but it’s possible another opening like the Pacers’ will be the best fit for Hammon.