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Power 5 schools looking for a men’s hoop coach should consider Becky Hammon

  • WNBA star Becky Hammon takes questions from the media at the San Antonio Spurs practice facility after being introduced as an assistant coach with the team on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 in San Antonio. The San Antonio Spurs hired WNBA star Becky Hammon on Tuesday, making her the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff. (AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani) AP

  • FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2014, file photo, Becky Hammon takes questions from the media at the San Antonio Spurs practice facility after being introduced as an assistant coach with the team, in San Antonio. Becky Hammon dreamed of playing in the NBA when she was young. She never got a chance to make that happen. Now though, she's giving girls hope of a chance to coach in the NBA. (AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani, File) AP

  • San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Philadelphia. The San Antonio Spurs won 119-68. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola) AP

  • FILE - In this July 11, 2015, file photo, NBA Summer League head coach Becky Hammon talks with San Antonio Spurs' Kyle Anderson, left, and Cady Lalanne during an NBA summer league basketball game against the New York Knicks in Las Vegas. Becky Hammon dreamed of playing in the NBA when she was young. She never got a chance to make that happen. Now though, she's giving girls hope of a chance to coach in the NBA. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill, File) Ronda Churchill



@MattVautourDHG
Monday, March 20, 2017

The candidates for the annual pool of March men’s basketball coaching vacancies looks the way it always does.

Young mid-major coaches on the rise. Formerly successful head coaches looking for a second shot, and Atlantic 10, AAC, Missouri Valley and lower Power Five coaches looking for a chance to land one of the game’s marquee jobs.

For an athletic director with a vacancy, how about an NBA assistant coach who has worked under one of the best NBA coaches in history? That guy has to be worth considering right?

What if that guy isn’t a guy?

Becky Hammon has never indicated that she’d want to coach in college. But if the quest is really to find the best coach available, isn’t she worth a phone call?

She’s certainly as qualified or more qualified than many who’ll get hired at big money over the next few weeks. She’s been an assistant under Greg Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs the past three seasons and was the head coach of their summer league team for the past two. What’s the drawback?

The outdated belief that men wouldn’t play for a woman isn’t giving today’s players enough credit. There are probably some lunkheads out there that would shy away, but it’d be their loss. Most players’ biggest goal is getting to the NBA, and Hammon has first-hand experience seeing what players need to get to that level.

If Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge listen to her, so will 18-year-old recruits. She can bring a picture of her on the bench at the 2016 All-Star game with Steph Curry nearby, on every recruiting trip. Hammon would need to hire a staff of veteran assistants with the recruiting contacts that she doesn’t have yet, but that wouldn’t be that hard to do.

Former UMass big man Cady Lalanne, who played for her each of the past two seasons in the Las Vegas Summer League, didn’t hesitate to endorse her.

“I think she’d be a great head coach,” Lalanne said. “She’s high-energy, motivating. Her track record proves she knows what she’s talking about. I think she’d be great. Any player if they’re smart would listen to a coach who learned from Coach Pop. If you’re a player who wants to get to the NBA, you’d listen to her. Her energy and her knowledge would make people want to play for her.”

It has to be the right fit. Ideally a Power Five school that takes basketball seriously with room to grow.

Of the jobs that are open, California might be the best fit. It’s a good job that could be a great job. It’s well resourced in a good area. A good coach can be successful in Berkeley. If Hammon is a good head coach she can succeed there and there’s no reason to think she isn’t.

During conference tournament week, Seth Davis, who covers college basketball for Sports Illustrated and CBS, suggested Dawn Staley as a candidate for a men’s job.

Staley, who is the head coach at South Carolina, is a terrific basketball mind and worth consideration if that’s the path she’s looking to pursue.

But Staley is slated to be the women’s Olympic coach in 2020. If she left for the men’s game, she’d basically be saying coaching women was a stepping stone toward a men’s job. Not a terrific message in a sport where elite women’s jobs have been steadily going to male coaches more and more.

Hammon is already coaching men and has received considerable accolades for it.

Hiring her would be perceived by some as a stunt and a grab for attention. That’s not a bad thing. Every time a college makes a hire it’s hoping to grab some attention for their program. After money and wins, attention is a program’s next most sought-after commodity.

Hammon seems savvy enough to turn the inevitable media storm into a positive for her program.

For somebody, she’d be worth taking a chance on. Unless she’s got her sights set on becoming the first woman head coach in the NBA. If a college program doesn’t hire her, an NBA general manager should.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage