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Aces’ coach defiant, insists she did nothing to deserve suspension

Updated May 17, 2023 - 5:21 pm

Becky Hammon is defiant. The Aces coach insists she didn’t do anything wrong.

The reigning WNBA Coach of the Year, Hammon was suspended for two games by the WNBA on Tuesday for violating league and team workplace policies. The punishment was the result of a months-long investigation after Dearica Hamby, the former Aces forward, alleged the organization bullied and discriminated against her because of her pregnancy.

“I don’t recall my relationship with (Hamby) being anything but on the up and up,” Hammon said. “I’m just, obviously along with the organization and everything, disappointed with the findings, but we’re looking forward to kind of putting the whole thing behind us and playing good basketball.”

Hammon spoke for the first time Wednesday at a pre-scheduled media availability. She maintained the decision to trade Hamby, who was pregnant at the time, to the Los Angeles Sparks was strictly a matter of basketball and salary cap considerations.

The Aces open their season Saturday on the road against the Seattle Storm, then head to Los Angeles to play the Sparks May 25. Hammon will be eligible to return to the sideline May 27, the team’s first home game.

“I handled Dearica with care from day one when she told me,” Hammon said. “She knows that. Like I said, once I made the phone call that the decision has been made to move her, that’s when everything fell apart.”

Hammon did acknowledge Hamby’s right to her interpretation of those interactions. Hammon added she isn’t trying to invalidate Hamby’s feelings. She said her intention has never been to inflict pain or stress on anybody.

She also said the league needs more structure in it rules regarding pregnant players.

“My job is to make the Aces better every year,” she said. “Sometimes that’s a hard process. As much as I can sit there and say, ‘That’s not how I deemed the conversation going,’ she deemed it another way. And for that, I do feel bad.”

Hammon said her simply asking about Hamby’s pregnancy was the violation of workplace policy which got her suspended, according to her understanding of the WNBA explanation. She also categorically denied sending any discriminatory texts to Hamby and didn’t believe anyone else in the organization did either.

Hammon added no Aces players from the past season’s team had spoken to investigators to her knowledge. The league said it had interviewed 33 people during its investigation in its release announcing the Aces’ punishments Tuesday.

The only player Hammon was aware of who had interviewed with the league’s investigators was Liz Cambage, who never played for the Aces coach. A league source with knowledge of the situation said Cambage was never interviewed during the investigation process.

The Aces were allowed to suggest more names — such as other players from the 2022 championship roster — to be interviewed, but did not, according to the source.

“It is true that the Respect in the Workplace violation included inappropriate questions Becky asked Dearica about her pregnancy,” a league spokesperson told the Review-Journal. “We don’t believe it would be appropriate to comment beyond that.”

The Aces organization and the current players continue to back Hammon, despite the suspension. Two-time MVP Candace Parker only recently arrived in Las Vegas after signing with the team in free agency but said she’d only experienced support from Hammon for herself and her family.

Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson called the entire situation “unfortunate,” but said she will continue to stand by her coach.

“We’re going to play for her,” Wilson said. “No matter what.”

Aces guard Kelsey Plum, the first vice president for the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, also spoke Wednesday. The players’ union put out a statement Tuesday expressing its concern that the punishments weren’t harsh enough.

Plum said her job is to represent all the league’s players and was critical of how the investigation was handled.

“It’s amazing when verdicts come back and no one is happy,” Plum said. “I think that just shows a poor level of leadership and a poor process on the investigation.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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