San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is considering a lucrative offer to leave the NBA and become the University of Florida women’s basketball coach, league sources told The Vertical.
The financial offer would be a considerable raise, especially considering that she’s still a young, behind-the-bench assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff. Nevertheless, Hammon is grappling with the decision, because she has been determined to stay on course to become the NBA’s first female head coach, league sources said.
News of Florida pursuing Hammon broke earlier this week, and it’s hardly a surprise that Florida’s obvious interest in her has manifested as a contract offer. Similarly, a “lucrative offer” was a logical endpoint of trying to lure Hammon from the NBA ranks, even though a “considerable raise” might not require a truly jaw-dropping sum.
That “behind-the-bench” note reminds that Hammon is no better than the fourth assistant on the Spurs’ deep coaching staff, after all. And while the conventional wisdom on Hammon has been that she is destined for and angling toward that spot as the NBA’s first female head coach, the same factors that work against projecting her as a perfect hire for Florida — a lack of head coaching experience outside of the NBA’s Summer League; relative unfamiliarity with the minutiae of NBA or women’s college basketball, at least compared to the WNBA that Hammon played in for a decade and a half — work against her on the NBA level, with the added worry that Hammon being hired as a head coach would make any franchise’s next season a national spectacle, for better or worse.
As Florida’s head coach, Hammon wouldn’t have to worry about that presumed pressure being an obstacle in her way, and could work to dispel any fears about her lack of time running a program from follicles to phalanges.
She would also be richly compensated, assuredly. Amanda Butler, who spent 10 years with Florida before being let go in early March, was making nearly $400,000 in reported guaranteed compensation as of 2015, surely a sum at least double (and maybe triple) what Hammon is currently being paid. But that package was good only for 12th in the SEC, where three women’s basketball coaches were making at least $750,000 in 2015, and none of those three was Tennessee’s Holly Warlick.
Butler was, it should be noted, making more in guaranteed compensation than Mississippi State’s Vic Schaefer — both hired by then-Mississippi State and now-Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin and unquestionably more successful than Butler — was in salary, but it’s likely Schaefer’s compensation was much higher than his reported $275,000 in salary — and that that figure, which is probably a fraction of what Stricklin can offer as the helmsman of Florida’s far more loaded athletic department, is still significantly more than what Hammon is making now.
But Hammon would be diverging from the most obvious path to an NBA head job by heading to Gainesville, and quite possibly closing off that road to herself for five or more years. And while building Florida’s historically mediocre program into a perennial winner would be roundly impressive, it’s not the sort of feat that would make NBA general managers keen to hire her — because almost nothing accomplished in women’s basketball has made NBA GMs keen to hire the coaches involved in those accomplishments.
Bill Laimbeer and Paul Westhead are about the only WNBA coaches of note to jump from the WNBA ranks to the NBA ranks, and neither stuck in the latter league after their jump, with Laimbeer leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves to coach the New York Liberty and Westhead — still the only coach to lead teams to both the NBA and WNBA titles — leaving the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise to dip back into women’s college basketball at Oregon.
Florida is wagering big on Hammon’s interest in coming to Gainesville, to be sure. It appears to have no immediate fallback plan, with Adam Silverstein of Only Gators reporting that rumored fellow finalists Schaefer and Matthew Mitchell of Kentucky are not, in fact, candidates for the job. And even if it can land Hammon, Florida would be hiring a coach whose widely understood goal for her career cannot be accomplished while with the Gators, opening up her program to constant rumor-mongering about her future that might harm recruiting.
But Hammon’s hiring alone would be such a coup for the perception of the program alone that the risk is probably more than worth it. And if she came to town, stayed a few years, and left behind a Gators team in great shape as she bolted for the NBA, she would be proving something about Florida that had never previously been proven about any women’s college basketball program, something that would no doubt be massively appealing to the next round of candidates for the job.
I wouldn’t expect any definitive movement on Hammon one way or the other until at least the completion of Florida’s men’s team’s NCAA Tournament game on Friday night, and probably not until after the weekend.
But it’s clear, with none other than Wojnarowski now involved in the reporting of this story, that Hammon’s ultimate decision is more likely to come sooner than later.