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Becky Hammon turns down Florida to stay with Spurs, per Swish Appeal

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The Gators’ stab at a white whale misses.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon will remain with the Spurs after mulling over an offer from Florida to become the Gators’ women’s basketball coach, Swish Appeal’s Mike Robinson reports.

While on the surface, it looked as if joining the Gators was a perfect fit for Hammon — she thought about taking it for a few days — Hammon has decided she will not take the coaching position at Florida. Instead, she will remain an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich.

The deal was apparently appealing enough to Hammon to garner serious consideration, but it may have been less lucrative than it needed to be to lure her away from the path toward a potential NBA head coaching position.

And while Florida’s offer was more than what Hammon was receiving with the Spurs, it was in the lower tier when it comes to the average salary in the SEC, multiple sources tell Swish Appeal.

Florida’s pursuit of Hammon was a somewhat surprising development, and welcomed here and elsewhere as a bit of big thinking from athletic director Scott Stricklin, who is in the process of making his first hire of a head coach to replace Amanda Butler, let go in early March.

But a source close to Hammon reached out after my publication of a post on Friday speculating on what a reportedly “lucrative” offer to Hammon could be, in the context of Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski calling it a “considerable raise”...

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.

...to rebut that speculation, calling it “way off” in regards to Hammon’s salary, SEC salaries, and Florida’s commitment.

With Hammon likely out of the running for the position, Stricklin will now have to work down a list that reportedly had Hammon at the top of it. His most logical second choice would be Schaefer, whom Stricklin tweeted his congratulations for making the Final Four (and called a “good friend”) on Sunday, but Only Gators’ Adam Silverstein reported last week that Schaefer and Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell are not candidates for the job.

And while women’s basketball is arguably the lowest-profile of Florida’s more than a dozen varsity programs — it’s the only Gators program without a conference championship, and by far the least successful of the seven without a national title — Stricklin’s attempt to hire a well-known NBA assistant that has now arguably backfired, with Florida’s financial commitment or lack thereof being cited as a reason Hammon turned the Gators down.

It’s certainly very much possible that Stricklin will hire a very good coach to replace Butler, and almost a lock that he will now hire someone with more experience at the collegiate level than Hammon. But Hammon was a more exciting and outstanding candidate than virtually any other candidate could be, and would have drawn in casual fans — and national curiosity — in a way that other coaches will struggle to do.

Yet Stricklin nailed his only women’s basketball hire to date. He found gold with Schaefer, a Texas A&M assistant at the time of his hiring who had posted just one winning season as the head coach at Sam Houston State in the early 1990s, as the Bulldogs have improved every year under his leadership, going from no postseason play to the Women’s NIT to an NCAA Tournament win to the Sweet Sixteen to the Final Four — the program’s first — over the last five years.

There’s reason to be frustrated by Florida’s failure to reel in Hammon, yes, but Stricklin may well have other lines to cast — and he could yet get a big fish in the boat.