Becky Hammon Unleashes the Aces' Full Potential and Earns Coach of the Year
Becky Hammon added another impressive feat to her long line of accomplishments Friday, as she was named WNBA Coach of the Year. A former player herself, Hammon went from undrafted in 1999 to being a six-time WNBA All-Star, two-time All-WNBA first team honoree, and having her No. 25 jersey retired by the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2016 and the franchise’s relocated team the Las Vegas Aces in 2021.
“I was undrafted and played for 16 years, I wasn’t supposed to be here, but here I am,” Hammon said during her jersey retirement.
She has since returned to the same franchise as a coach and excelled just the same, being named the 2022 WNBA Coach of the Year after leading the Aces to the top seed, a 26-10 record, and a Commissioner's Cup victory. After a devastating loss in the 2021 semifinals, it was clear that the team was in need of a refresh, and Hammon provided just that.
Hammon made what was already the league’s best offense even more dangerous, allowing them to play freely, shoot threes, and unleash their full potential. They finished the season first in scoring and offensive efficiency and knocked down 23 three-pointers in the playoff victory against the Phoenix Mercury, becoming the first team in WNBA history to record more than 20 threes in a regular season or playoff game.
Despite the numerous blowout wins and records broken, this season did not come without adversity. On June 21, the Aces lost at home to the Chicago Sky after the Sky's historic 28-point comeback, and then went on to lose four of their next six games. Throughout this stretch, Hammon harped on the team's defense, telling her players that if they didn’t play defense they wouldn’t play. Like all greats do, she used it as an opportunity to get better.
“We hit a rough patch during the middle of the season, and the growth and the trust that we’ve built over the remainder of the season, basically after All-Star break, is something I'm really proud of,” Hammon said.
Hammon’s mindset and philosophy have been a huge part of the success she and the team experienced this year. She placed a big emphasis on striving for team success as opposed to individual numbers, encouraging her players to make extra passes for the best possible shot and have trust in each other. Coming in as a first-year head coach, she also focused greatly on getting to know her players and forming connections with them.
“I think the biggest thing that I wanted to do coming in was just to get to know them on a personal level, spend some time with them, get to know what makes them click, how they learn,” Hammon said to the media. “Just learning the little nuances of each individual player and just investing time in them. At the end of the day they have to know you care about them and I care about my squad. I love these girls.”
She’s been described by the team as a player's coach, and as a former player herself, there’s a special relatability that she can offer.
“When [coaches} have been in those seats, they can relate to you on a whole other level just from the competitive standpoint, the confidence standpoint as a woman in this league. It’s incredible, so I don't take anything for granted when it comes to being coached by former players because this is huge,” A’ja Wilson said while speaking to the media.
Hammon isn’t satisfied just yet. The Aces will be taking on the Seattle Storm in the semifinals as the franchise and Hammon look to win their first-ever championship.
“We’re still trying to be great," Hammon said. "That’s the bottom line.”