Posts Tagged ‘Ettore Messina’

Quiet Spurs make big noise with Hammon


VIDEO: Becky Hammon is introduced by the Spurs

Last week, when virtually nobody was looking, point guard Tony Parker signed a three-year contract extension.

That’s usually the way the Spurs do business.

But for a franchise that usually goes out of its way to avoid creating even a ripple in the pool, the Spurs have made loud splashes this summer. The first was hiring longtime European coach Ettore Messina as an assistant coach. That was just a warmup.

The addition of WNBA star Becky Hammon to the coaching staff is nothing less than a cannonball.

Hammon, who is retiring as a player at the end of this season, will become the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history.

Lisa Boyer was a volunteer assistant coach for the Cavaliers under John Lucas during the 2001-02 season, but she did not sit on the bench during games or travel with the team.

Make no mistake. This is big, potentially a game-changer and another milestone for women in sports and as professionals in general. Hammon will have the same duties as the rest of the coaching staff; scouting, writing reports, game-planning and offering her opinions in coaching sessions.

“In some ways it is trailblazing,” Hammon said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “But so many other women have done so many great things. I’m just following in their path.”

“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement from the team. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”

Hammon is a 16-year WNBA veteran and was voted one of the 15 all-time best players in league history. Ironically, an ACL injury that forced her to sit out last season may have opened the door to coaching. While in San Antonio rehabilitating during the offseason, Hammon asked Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and Popovich if she could attend practices and sit in on meetings. A connection was quickly established and both sides were on the road toward making history, though with no intention of grabbing the spotlight.

“Coach Pop made it clear to me I was being hired because of my basketball IQ and my qualifications,” Hammon said. ” ‘It just so happens you’re a woman.’ “

It is, of course, the Spurs’ way to push at the envelope, leap outside the box of conventional thinking. They won their fifth NBA title in June with a roster consisting of 10 international players that came from eight different countries. Messina has spent more than a quarter century as perhaps the top coach in Europe and was widely regarded for years as one who could make the jump across the Atlantic to thrive in the NBA. It took the Spurs to actually make it happen.

Still, it is a quantum leap to make Hammon a woman at the highest level of the men’s game.

“People have always asked me if a woman could play in the NBA,” Hammon said. “I tell them no, because there is a difference. The men are too big, too strong. But when it comes to coaching, game-planning and scheming, there’s no reason that a woman can’t do anything a man can do.”

So could a woman one day become a head coach in the NBA?

“I think anything is possible,” Hammon said.

The Next Bull-In-Waiting

HANG TIME WEST – The Nikola Mirotic Watch is officially on, with an NBA.com story last week stating the No. 23 pick in the 2011 draft likely would have gone in the lottery had he waited a year to declare followed by a Chicago Tribune article that increases the spotlight on the Bull-in-waiting.

In short, if Mirotic is improving this much and is plotting an eventual jump to one of the prominent organizations in the NBA – and the world, thanks to the long-ago Michael Jordan branding – there will be a lot of eyes on him going forward. Plus, there is the wait that will also drive curiosity: the Tribune’s David Haugh reports the summer of 2013 appears to be the earliest Mirotic would leave Real Madrid in Spain and that ’14, two more seasons away and three since he was drafted, is possible.

“I can’t tell you right now when, but for sure I want to be totally ready when I take that step,” Mirotic told the Tribune. “Currently I have a contract with Real Madrid and personal and team goals that I’d like to achieve. I want to improve as a player, and to get this goal (of playing for the Bulls), it’s not advisable to go fast.”

More buildup?

Ettore Messina, the Real Madrid coach the previous two seasons before joining the Lakers’ staff for 2011-12, told NBA.com:

“I think he can be very good. He has the size, he has the mobility, he can put the ball on the floor for a big man, and he has range. He definitely has the NBA range and a quick release. I think he can really be effective in this league once he gets physically stronger, more powerful.”

Who does Mirotic compare to in the NBA?

David Lee, maybe,” said Messina, a coaching legend in Europe who left the Lakers after the season to be a head coach again with CSKA Moscow. “Can we call him a young Kevin Love just to get the fans excited? Yes, we can call him a young Kevin Love. Obviously he has a long way to go to become like Kevin, which an All-Star, but that kind of player while being very effective on the perimeter has the ability to put the ball on the floor and is tough enough to get the job done close to the basket…. Nikola will be able to play inside, outside, flash, pop, roll. Mix his game.”

Mirotic, 21, needs to add muscle on his 6-foot-10, 210-pound frame to play power forward, but two years is a lot of time to bulk up. It’s a lot of time for a lot of things at his new level of prominence in Europe and at least one city in North America.