An Open Letter About Female Coaches ; by Pau Gasol
This article, written by Pau Gasol – a professional basketball for the San Antonio Spurs (NBA Team), highlights some of the fundamental views and thoughts by those athletes who have experienced the ‘rare’ world of being coached by a woman in elite sport. Paul, who is also a 6 time NBA all-star, shares his views on the necessity that the NBA hires its first female head coach and his arguments to quell the “silly arguments and talking points against Coach Hammon’s candidacy” for being that first female head coach.
To set the background here for those who do not know Becky Hammon; Becky is currently the Assistant Coach at Spurs and retired basketballer herself. Becky played for the San Antonio Stars and New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association, as well as multiple basketball teams outside of the United States. Hammon, who was born and grew up in the United States, became a naturalized Russian citizen in 2008 and represented the Russian national team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
On August 5, 2014, Becky was hired by the Spurs as an assistant coach, becoming the second female assistant coach in NBA history, and the first full-time assistant coach. This also makes her the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major professional sports in North America. On July 3, 2015, the Spurs announced that Hammon would be the team’s Summer League head coach, the first woman to be a head coach in that league. Hammon led the Spurs to the Las Vegas Summer League title on July 20, 2015.
Since her appointment, Becky has consistently been in the media because of her triumphs, her coaching skills and the possibility that she could be the first female Head Coach in NBA history.
To find out more about Becky, check out this “New Yorker” article from April 2018
Below, is the Open Letter written by one of Beckys players in her support:
” I want to tell you a little something about my parents.
I grew up just outside of Barcelona, a child of two highly successful professionals. My father was a nurse and my mother was a doctor. Naturally, I took to studying science — and after high school I even did one year of med school, before eventually devoting my time fully to basketball. I sometimes think about what would have happened if I had stuck with medicine and followed in my parents’ footsteps.
I remember how people would often mistake my father as the doctor and my mom as the nurse — it happened more often than it should have, in my mind. To me, that my mother was a successful doctor … this was just the norm. And don’t get me wrong: I admired my dad’s hard work and job as well. But I grew up knowing that my mom got into a more rigorous school and program, and thus she had the more prominent job. That wasn’t weird, or a judgment in any direction. It was just the truth. And we never really thought twice about it.
Growing up, my brothers and I always admired this standard set by our parents.
And now that I’m an adult, and looking forward to being a parent in the near future myself, I realize even more how lucky I am to have been raised to that standard. It’s a standard by which the only question worth asking — it isn’t about if you’re the right “kind” of person for your job. Rather, it’s about how well equipped you are for the job.
In 37 years, I can honestly say, I’ve never once thought of my mom as a “female” doctor.
To me, she has always just been … a doctor.
And a great one, too.
The reason I wanted to start by telling you about my parents, is that their story makes me think about today’s NBA. Specifically about how, in the 72-year history of the league, there has never been a female head coach. Even more specifically, it makes me think of Becky Hammon: a coach who has been the topic of much conversation lately, and who I’ve had the opportunity to play for in San Antonio.
But if you think I’m writing this to argue why Becky is qualified to be an NBA head coach … well, you’re mistaken. That part is obvious: One, she was an accomplished player — with an elite point guard’s mind for the game. And two, she has been a successful assistant for arguably the greatest coach in the game. What more do you need? But like I said — I’m not here to make that argument. Arguing on Coach Hammon’s behalf would feel patronizing. To me, it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach.
What I would like to do, though, is knock down a few of the silly arguments and talking points against Coach Hammon’s candidacy — and the larger idea of a female NBA head coach — that I’ve seen floating around.
The argument that I see most often is thankfully the one that’s easiest to disprove: It’s this idea that, at the absolute highest level of basketball, a woman isn’t capable of coaching men. “Yeah, female coaches are fine coaching women’s college basketball, or the WNBA,” the argument goes. “But the NBA? The NBA is different.”
First, I’ve just gotta tell you: If you’re making that argument to anyone who’s actually played any high-level basketball, you’re going to seem really ignorant. But I also have a simple response to it — which is that I’ve been in the NBA for 17 years. I’ve won two championships … I’ve played with some of the best players of this generation … and I’ve played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. And I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. 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.”