Raptors need to take risk – Becky Hammon for head coach

The Raptors need to name their head coach in short order. Let’s take a chance with a rookie. Becky Hammon deserves an opportunity.

Masai Ujiri put himself and the Toronto Raptors in a big hole when he fired Dwane Casey. In an off-season already sure to be challenging, there’s an urgent need to recruit and hire a new head coach.

To my way of thinking, Masai needs to expand the candidate list, to get beyond the list of experienced (which means “previously fired”) coaches and consider a rookie. So many commentators seem to think the coaching decision is all but finalized, and expect Mike Budenholzer will be announced shortly.


SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 26: Assistant Coach Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs talks with players during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on December 26, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)


I hope Masai takes a little more time with the search, so that eager kids like Becky Hammon and Jerry Stackhouse are offered serious consideration. Stackhouse doesn’t need my advocacy, but Becky does, so here goes.

Hammon’s strong bio

The possibility of Hammon becoming the NBA’s first female head coach is profoundly intriguing. Despite not being recruited, she was a brilliant college player who was passed over in the WNBA draft because of her height, or lack thereof (she is 5’6″). Undaunted, she made a team anyway, and had her uniform number retired by the San Antonio Stars. She was also inducted into the WNBA Ring of Honor, which is reserved for individuals who make unusually large contributions to the women’s league.

Gregg Popovich, who’s on the short list of the greatest sports coaches of all time, hired her as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. She’s been there ever since, but probably for not much longer. Somebody is going to snap her up for a bigger job, and I hope that somebody is Masai.

There’s a lot to like about Hammon as a head coaching candidate. Her playing career is eerily reminiscent of Fred VanVleet’s. She was overlooked (which at her height isn’t surprising) for both college and pro ball, yet wangled her way into gigs anyway, and proved a major star.

Learning from the best

As if Becky’s accomplishments on the floor weren’t enough, she’s been tutored by a master coach (in fairness, so was Budenholzer) since hanging up her sneakers. Pau Gasol just published a piece strongly pushing Hammon’s coaching skills. A portrait emerges of a determined, highly intelligent person who consistently overcomes barriers which would break most of us.

Another article about Hammon recently ran in a Milwaukee paper suggesting that the Bucks shouldn’t hire her to fill their vacant head coaching position. Maybe she wouldn’t fit in Milwaukee (the article has been roundly condemned by many in the sports world; I too find it gutless and unconvincing) but there are lots of reasons to think she would do just fine in Toronto. She’s from South Dakota, so our occasionally(?) frosty weather won’t bother her.

Masai has hired women throughout the Raptors organization. He talked about hiring women as being important to him when he was the featured guest on a Bill Simmons podcast.

Becky Hammon can do this, Masai, and so can you. Let’s not recycle a coach; let’s give an eager rookie a chance. She’s got the playing and coaching credentials, plus a remarkable personality. Becky Hammon for Raptors coach – I’m there.