Becky Hammon thrives in first season as coach of Aces :: WRALSportsFan.com

– When Becky Hammon knew it was time to leave the NBA last winter after being the assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs for eight seasons, she faced a difficult choice.

She had to choose between the two WNBA franchises she once played for, and both lobbied hard to make her their head coach.

“It should be either Vegas or New York,” the Aces coach said recently after a training session in New York. “I felt it was time for me to leave and grow and have another challenge. It was one thing or another. In mid-December, I was sure I would get away from this NBA. path right now. “

She had been a candidate for a couple of NBA head coach jobs over the last few years, but never got them. She had also received some college offers in the past, as well as other assistant jobs in the NBA, but turned them down.

“This is far more beneficial and more beneficial to me than being an assistant coach in Sacramento or Oklahoma City or another (NBA) team,” Hammon said.

The former Liberty guard acknowledged it was hard to say no to New York owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, saying she was really close to taking the job at the Big Apple.

Still, the 45-year-old Hammon has not regretted his choice and to become the first WNBA coach to receive a million-dollar annual salary.

“It’s been one of the best decisions of my life. I absolutely love it,” said Hammon, who was one of the All-Star coaches last weekend.

Las Vegas got off to a great start, winning 13 of its first 15 games before hitting a slide ahead of the All-Star break, with five losses in seven games. The Aces swept New York in the two games after the break.

‘No one said it would be easy. If it was easy to be great, everyone would do it, “Hammon said.” You have to hit some adversity. There should be some hiccups. We came out like a rocket and then hit some hard areas.

“The adversity will be more beneficial to us than the win-loss record along the way.”

Whether things were going well or when the team was having a hard time, Hammon said she spoke to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich a few times a week, either via text message or phone.

“The other day I was talking to him for an hour. He’s watching all our games,” she said. “He tells me what he sees and what he thinks. That line of communication is very open.”

The same is true of communication with her team.

Pointguard Chelsea Gray said one of the biggest things Hammon has brought to the team is accountability – which is certainly a Popovich move.

“She holds everyone accountable from top to bottom,” Gray said. “It did not take her any time to do that and be completely honest with us.”

Hammon’s coaching style has also helped protect Kelsey Plum, who has the best season of his WNBA career. The two were connected last year when Hammon was in Las Vegas for a few days. They worked, and 5-foot-6 Hammon gave 5-8 Plum some tips to finish in the lane.

“I had no idea she would train me this year,” Plum said. “She’s been where we are, which helps.”

Plum also noted that some teams have already started taking some of Hammon’s coaching ideas. Las Vegas was one of the first teams to start playing a zone defense, and New York tried it on Tuesday night against the Aces.

“I think people are starting to steal some of her stuff,” Plum said. “People are also taking some of our sets on the offensive. It’s great to see her make such an impact already.”

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