Becky Hammon never played for the Las Vegas Aces. But the fact they are honoring her at halftime of Monday's game by raising her No. 25 to the rafters in Las Vegas sends a good sign to her about the team and the WNBA as a whole.
Hammon, who is entering her eighth season as an assistant with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, spent her 16-year WNBA playing career with the New York Liberty and the Stars (eight years with each). She was the best player to wear No. 25 in ESPN's recent ranking of WNBA players by jersey number.
The Stars retired her No. 25 in June 2016 while the franchise was still in San Antonio, but it moved to Las Vegas before the 2018 WNBA season and was renamed the Aces. The team was bought by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis in January, and he is making it a point to connect the Aces to both San Antonio and Utah, where the franchise started originally as the Starzz when the WNBA launched in 1997.
"The fact that he's kind of digging into the history tells me the care and concern that he's putting into it," Hammon said in a video call Sunday from Las Vegas. "There's people that can say the right things, and then people who do the right things. I'm super excited [the Aces] want to establish a history and a culture and a winning identity. They're willing to put their money where their mouth is. It's important as the league grows that we do remember the people that came before."
Hammon, 44, then added with a laugh: "And I'm starting to be one of those old people."
Last week, Hammon was named to "The W25" honoring the top players over the WNBA's first 25 seasons. The 5-foot-6 guard was undrafted in 1999 out of Colorado State but caught on with the Liberty and became part of three WNBA Finals teams in New York.
Traded in 2007 to San Antonio, she led the Stars to their only WNBA Finals in 2008. One of her teammates in both New York and San Antonio, Vickie Johnson, is now head coach of the Dallas Wings, who will face the Aces on Monday at 3 p.m. ET at Michelob ULTRA Arena. Both teams already have clinched playoff berths.
Hammon joined Gregg Popovich's Spurs staff in 2014 after retiring as a player, and she has interviewed for NBA head-coaching jobs in recent years. While Hammon would love to have that opportunity, she said she's also open to men's or women's college head-coaching jobs.
"Whenever I say I'm not going to do something, I pretty much end up doing that thing," she said, chuckling. "So I kind of try not to say that. [Working for] Coach Pop has been an investment into my life that I really can't articulate and has prepared me in such a way that I don't think I could get in very many other places. I'm prepared to coach players -- men, women, it doesn't really matter to me.
"I'll go where the best opportunity provides itself. Where I feel like I can have the greatest impact. I want to be impacting the next generation. Whether that's the young minds of men or women, I find them equally important moving forward."
Hammon said that although the NBA isn't right for every coach, the women in the league now show they can do the job and that there are plenty of others who can, too.
"Organizations are more open-minded to bringing women on board in a meaningful capacity," Hammon said. "I'm not just talking about filling a quota. Like really giving them a job where they can excel. And giving them the support and tools they need to be successful. I see those doors opening more and more."