NBA Specials: Can Becky Hammon Land a Head Coaching Job This Summer?

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The NBA coaching carousel is whirling. The Indiana Pacers became the latest team with an opening after firing the unpopular Nate Bjorkgren into the sun on Wednesday, which brings the total number of leaguewide openings to four. The Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, and Portland Trail Blazers are also looking for new bosses, while there’s a chance a few more opportunities could pop up later in the summer. I hear Milwaukee is nice this time of year.

There aren’t any can’t-miss jobs currently available, but these are still solid opportunities for new coaches looking to get a foot in the door. NBA franchises have a nasty habit of recycling has-been coaches, so don’t be surprised if tired old names like Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy pop up in the rumor mill.

Here’s hoping there’s a team out there ready to go in a different direction, however. San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon has been linked with numerous coaching jobs over the past few years, but she has yet to get the call from any team. Hammon has been on Gregg Popovich’s staff since 2014, and she became the first woman to serve as a head coach in an NBA game when Popovich was ejected during a game last year.

Hammon now has seven years’ worth of experience on an NBA bench, and it’s fair to assume that she’ll become the first full-time female head coach in league history eventually. Kara Lawson is another prospective candidate, but Hammon will likely be the first to get a chance.

Will Hammon get a crack with any of the teams currently looking for a new coach? Let’s take a look at BetOnline’s odds.

Boston Celtics (+1200)

Interestingly enough, Hammon doesn’t even have the most favorable odds among women to get the Celtics’ job. Lawson served as one of the Celtics’ shooting coaches during the 2019-20 season before landing the head coaching job for Duke’s women’s team last summer. Given her familiarity with Brad Stevens and Boston’s organization, Lawson (+600) actually has the second-best odds of any candidate to succeed Stevens as the Celtics’ next head coach.

Stevens is now the Celtics’ president of basketball ops, which means he’ll be tasked with choosing his own coaching replacement. Stevens was actually asked about Hammon’s qualifications before a game against Hammon’s Spurs back in April, to which he replied,

“I think there’s several very qualified candidates and Becky [Hammon], obviously, is a terrific candidate. I don’t know her well but I know what people think about her and I know how well she’s respected all across the league, by players and the coaches. So I would hope that that time is coming very soon.”

He added,

“Obviously, we’ve had — [vice president of player development and organizational growth] Allison [Feaster] is not in a coaching position but she’s incredible in our organization. And Kara Lawson is a star, [she] was here [as an assistant coach from 2019-20], we couldn’t hardly keep her here, obviously. So there’s all kinds of good candidates that are now in the league, there’s all kind of good candidates that will be in the league soon and, without question, that day is coming. I’m amongst the hopeful that it’s very soon.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt Hammon to have been working for the last seven years under Popovich, who is widely regarded as the best coach in NBA history. The Celtics are coming off of an incredibly disappointing season, and the new coach will face healthy expectations with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown headlining the roster. Boston made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals just last year, so this team does have a higher ceiling than it showed in 2020-21.

It sure sounds as though Stevens is fond of Hammon as a candidate despite not knowing her all that well on a personal level. Lawson makes for an obvious candidate given her previous ties to the team, but would she leave Duke after such a short stint? Lawson coached Duke for four games last year before the team opted out of the remainder of the season due to pandemic concerns.

While Lawson would presumably jump at the chance to make the leap to the NBA, I’m not convinced that she’d burn the bridge with Duke so quickly. Hammon’s +1200 odds are literally twice as appealing as Lawson’s (+600) to get this job. Not only would hiring Hammon give the Celtics’ organization some much-needed positive PR, but she may well be the most qualified candidate for the position in the first place.

The Celtics went outside the box when they hired Stevens away from Butler in 2013. They could easily do the same with Hammon eight years later. At +1200, the Celtics make a lot of sense as a suitor for Hammon.

Orlando Magic (+700)

Interestingly enough, BetOnline’s oddsmakers think Hammon is more likely to wind up in Orlando than Boston. Hammon’s +700 odds to secure the Magic’s head coaching job are the fifth-best of any candidate, trailing only Sam Cassell (+400), Terry Stotts (+500), David Vanterpool (+600), and Penny Hardaway (+600).

I think Hardaway makes for the natural choice given his lengthy history with the organization, but Hammon is another perfectly viable candidate. Unlike the Celtics, the Magic are a team without any expectations to actually win anything next season. The deadline trades of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier signaled that the franchise is prepared to tear it all down and start building from scratch.

Signing up to coach a team destined to do a lot of losing next season may not sound fun, but these are the kinds of situations that make more sense for first-time head coaches. Rather than dealing with the pressure of major expectations in Boston, Hammon would have more of an opportunity to experiment with Orlando’s young roster and endure the growing pains commonly suffered by young coaches.

Hammon seems very capable of dealing with the inherent pressure and scrutiny that will come with being the first full-time female head coach in NBA history. I can scarcely think of a better place to get her feet wet than in Orlando with a young, up-and-coming roster. If nothing else, she can prove her mettle as a legit coach with the Magic and use the opportunity as a springboard for more attractive jobs in the future.

One issue here is that the Magic haven’t been the most creative organization when it comes to head coaches. Each of the last three coaches for this team (Scott Skiles, Frank Vogel, and Steve Clifford) were retreads. Their last first-time head coach was Jacque Vaughn, who hasn’t gotten a head coaching job anywhere else ever since.

The opportunity makes sense for Hammon, but would the Magic be willing to make the hire?

Portland Trail Blazers (+1200)

The Trail Blazers parted ways with Terry Stotts after a fairly successful 10-year run. Portland is a readymade roster built around a legitimate superstar in Damian Lillard, so this is easily the most enticing job currently available. The Blazers have been a consistent playoff team under Stotts, but a trip to the Finals has eluded this franchise since the early-90s.

GM Neil Olshey has insisted that Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic are going nowhere this offseason. Despite the fact that the team hasn’t seriously competed for a Western Conference title at any point in the last decade, Olshey seems reluctant to blow it up. We’ll see. Based on their middling six-game showing against Denver in the first round of the playoffs, I’d be surprised if this roster looked the same at the end of the summer.

Mike D’Antoni has reportedly shown interest in the job. D’Antoni is currently serving as an assistant under Steve Nash in Brooklyn after leaving his post as the boss with the Rockets last summer. D’Antoni and Lillard would make for a compelling duo, but D’Antoni isn’t exactly a fresh face on the coaching scene.

Olshey said that he would like to consider between 20 and 25 coaching candidates, so he’s casting quite the wide net. If Olshey seriously believes this team has a chance to win a title as currently constructed, I think he’s more likely to go with an established coach rather than taking a shot on an unproven candidate.

As a result, ex-coaches like D’Antoni, Dave Joerger, and Kenny Atkinson may have a leg up on younger coaches like Hammon, Darvin Ham, or Chauncey Billups when it comes to getting the Portland job. I’d pass on Hammon winding up with the Trail Blazers at +1200.

Indiana Pacers (+600)

Hammon has the third-best odds of any coach to land with the Pacers, though Terry Stotts (+150) has emerged as a very heavy early favorite. Stotts went to high school in the state, and he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame just two years ago.

After a disastrous season under another first-time head coach in Nate Bjorkgren, I’d expect the Pacers to take a safer approach this time around. Stotts provided stability and longevity during his stint in Portland, and his ties to the state would seem to make him a natural choice. Despite the favorable odds, I doubt Hammon ultimately beat Stotts out for this gig.

What’s the Best Bet?

As it stands now, Boston and Orlando look like the most likely destinations for Hammon if she finally gets the nod this summer. Taking the job with the Magic would offer Hammon the chance to grow into the role with a team facing low expectations. Taking the job with the Celtics would throw Hammon into the fire immediately as the head coach for one of the league’s marquee franchises.

Both teams are appealing betting options, but I like the extra value you can get with betting on Hammon to wind up in Boston at +1200. The Celtics should be aggressive with their next coaching hire, and Hammon and Stevens would make for a logical partnership as the team moves forward into a new era.

Bet on Hammon to succeed Stevens with the Celts.

Where Will Becky Hammon Land? –Boston Celtics (+1200)
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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