Becky Hammon will lead the Las Vegas Aces Credit: Getty Images/Las Vegas Aces

When Becky Hammon went to Las Vegas last September to celebrate the Aces retiring her jersey—the Aces franchise was previously the San Antonio Stars—she had no idea that Aces president Nikki Fargas was scoping her out. Last week, the Las Vegas Aces named Hammon as its new head coach.

“I’ve always been open-minded and talks obviously progressed, and me and my family came to the conclusion that the Las Vegas Aces would be the best spot,” said Hammon, now in her eighth season as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. “You could feel they’re building something special.

“I’m super excited to be back in the W; I’m super excited to be leading this group of girls,” she added. “Let’s go.”

Hammon began her 16-year WNBA career with the New York Liberty, where she played for eight seasons. She spent the next eight seasons with the San Antonio Stars, and shortly after her retirement in 2014 she became the first woman to be a full-time NBA assistant coach. In 2015, she was the first woman to serve as a head coach in the NBA’s Summer League, leading the Spurs to the title. A few weeks ago, Hammon was the first woman to act as an NBA head coach, following Gregg Popovich’s ejection from a game.

These incredible accomplishments have led some to question whether this move to the WNBA is a step down for Hammon, despite reports that she will be the highest paid head coach in WNBA history. Hammon sees becoming a WNBA head coach as a win.

“This is an opportunity for me to sit in the big chair and be a head coach in a major professional sports league,” said Hammon, who will remain with the Spurs until April. “I feel I’m ready to have my own team, and this is the organization that made it very, very obvious they wanted me.”

After Hammon’s hiring by the Spurs, other women have received significant opportunities in the NBA as assistant coaches and front office personnel, including Swin Cash, Teresa Weatherspoon and Lindsey Harding. For the past couple of years, Hammon’s name has been in the mix whenever an NBA head coaching job comes open. She was honest to say perhaps the time is not yet at hand for a woman to be a head coach in the NBA. Clearly, she could remain an assistant coach in the NBA for as long as she desires, but at age 44 Hammon is ready to lead.

“[Aces owner] Mark Davis and Nikki [Fargas] met me and said, ‘That’s a head coach right now,’” said Hammon. “I couldn’t be prouder to come back to the W. It’s where I’m from.”

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