It could be nothing more than bored sportswriters looking for clicks, but there is a bit of a buzz floating about that the Boston Celtics are seriously contemplating offering their recently vacated head coach position to San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon. This would make Hammon the first woman head coach in a major men’s sporting league, although I should probably ask forgiveness for assuming the gender identity of all involved.
Hammon has an accomplished record both on the court and as a coach. She definitely has a fan in Boston’s Brad Stevens, who was the team’s head coach this year yet immediately upon the Celtics being ousted from the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets in five games moved upstairs to assume the role as head of basketball operations, taking over from the retiring Danny Ainge. This led to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith having an on-camera eruption over yet another NBA executive position being filled by a white guy that even by his volatile standards was near nuclear. One wonders how Smith and company would react to a gay white woman coming in as a NBA coach. Wrong minorities, perhaps?
There are multiple angles to consider when mulling over the possibility of Hammon taking over the Celtics. First off, the Celtics are a storied franchise with seventeen championships to their credit. This is the team of legends: Bill Russell. John Havlicek. Larry Bird. And many, many more. This is also the franchise of legendary coach Red Auerbach. To be Boston’s head coach brings on an entirely different set of goals to live up to than, say, being the coach of the Sacramento Kings.
Another aspect is the Celtics tradition of firsts. In 1964 Boston was the first NBA team with an all-black starting lineup. In 1966, Auerbach stepped away from coaching the team and in his place inserted Russell as player/coach, making the Celtics the first team in the four major sports with a black coach. Granted, these events were well over fifty years ago. This duly noted, it is impossible to not believe one and all in the Celtics organization are aware of franchise history and would welcome an opportunity to add on to the existing legacy.
The thorniest question refers back to mulling over reaction in the NBA’s black community over another head coaching job being given to a white coach, gender notwithstanding. As detailed in my last post, Monty Williams has created a blueprint for how to turn a formerly moribund franchise, in this case the Phoenix Suns, into legitimate title contenders in a very short period of time. One would like to think that at this point in history skin color would be no hindrance to getting a head coaching position, or any other executive level position with a NBA franchise, The idea is to win. Given the current state of affairs in our nation with corporation knocking themselves out virtue signaling, if anything a black head coach or executive position candidate should have a leg up on a white guy going for the same job. Should.
If Hammon is genuinely under consideration for the Celtics head coaching job, the question has to be asked if she will enjoy a certain immunity from the heavy criticism all head coaches (unless you happen to be one that is winning championships left and right) must endure. Will sportswriters and commentators pull back because you’re not supposed to talk to or about a woman like that? Will players feel more obligated to do exactly what the coach says? It would most likely be so, but if she gets the job time will tell.
Hammon should know how things work; in addition to her extensive playing career she’s worked under Gregg Popovich for seven years. If you can’t learn from him, you’re doing it wrong; the man has won five championships and had a run of twenty-two straight years making the playoffs. She may well be a superb head coach should the opportunity be presented. If not, she still has her job at San Antonio. If she is offered the Celtics job, get ready for a whole lot of fawning … until the first losing streak.