Writing for the Player’s Tribune, 17-year veteran Pau Gasol has taken up the subject of women coaching in the NBA. The piece comes in response to conversation around San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon potentially interviewing for the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching position. Gasol does not advocate for Hammon; he depicts the very idea as “patronizing”. Instead he systematically debunks common arguments against women coaching from his perspective as a player, revealing a few truths behind the world’s most prominent basketball league in the process.
After discussing his personal background and discussing Hammon’s qualifications, Gasol suggests that to players of high-level basketball, arguments against a woman coaching just because she’s a woman “seem ignorant”. He offers this detailed story of being coached by Hammon.
This year, in a practice a few months back, I was drilling the pick-and-roll with Dejounte Murray. It was a standard drill, just the two of us alone at one basket: I would set the screen and either pop out for the jumper or roll to the lane. If I popped, Dejounte would hit me with a chest pass. If I rolled, a bounce pass. Like I said, a very standard drill — we’ll do this a million times.
But what I remember about this particular drill is that, at some point during it, Coach Hammon stopped us mid-motion. Coaches Hammon, Borrego and Messina walk over, and Becky says to Dejounte, “D.J., O.K. — your bounce pass? It’s too low. You’ve got to hit Pau exactly where he needs it. Run that again.” We then talk some more as a group about how I need the ball a little more precise, with a little more zip, so I could have a better chance to finish the action at the rim. And then we repeat the drill a few times, alternating from the left and right sides of court. Of course, Dejounte being Dejounte, he figures it out fast — and pretty soon we’re flying through. But something about that moment has just always stuck with me. Just, like … the level of knowledge of the game that Becky showed, you know what I mean?
She noticed a small detail out of the corner of her eye — and then instantly located both the problem and the solution. And not only that, but we were also able to communicate with each other in such a way that we got the result that we needed. It’s a good reminder, I’d say, of the importance of communication between team members — especially at the NBA level. I don’t think I caught another stray pass the rest of the season.
Gasol then goes hard against those who consider female coaches a public-relations stunt.
Another argument that I’ve seen tossed around — maybe even sillier than the previous one — is that Becky rose to her current position because having her on staff was “good p.r.” for the Spurs.
No. We’re talking about the NBA here — a business where there’s a lot of money on the line, and little patience for mediocrity.
[Coach Gregg Popovich’s] only standard for doing anything is whether it’ll help us in just one way … and it isn’t getting good p.r.
It’s getting W’s. And getting those W’s The Spurs Way.
Gasol also talks about locker room procedures, the Phoenix Suns hiring Igor Kokoškov as head coach, and the work he sees yet to do.
Gasol’s piece is informative, passionate, and well-written. It’s one of the finer examples the Player’s Tribune has published; it shouldn’t be missed.