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Becky Hammon ready to take ‘step forward’ and lead Aces

Becky Hammon didn’t plan on leaving the NBA. Not right now, anyway. Not during her eighth season as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

But Aces president Nikki Fargas and owner Mark Davis were respectfully unrelenting in their pursuit, sharing the certainty that Hammon would be best suited to lead the franchise into the future.

“This is the organization that made it really obvious — they wanted me really, really bad,” Hammon said Monday from Toronto during a virtual introductory press conference. “It’s always good to be wanted. So it quickly became evident to me that Las Vegas was the place for me.”

Hammon, 44, affirmed Monday that she is ready to be a head coach in a major professional sports league, calling her decision to coach the Aces “a step forward” for her individually — and for women’s basketball. She’ll still conclude the NBA season with the Spurs.

But make no mistake, “the Aces have 100 percent of my attention and my energies. I’m super proud to be their head coach and lead this group of girls,” she said.

Equally excited was Fargas, who spent several weeks courting Hammon after deciding that she would be the best coach for what has so clearly become a perennial championship contender.

Fargas said Monday that she spoke with former head coach Bill Laimbeer at the end of the season about the organization’s trajectory and they agreed that Hammon would be the optimal coaching candidate.

She was actually the only coaching candidate, Fargas said, noting that Laimbeer has been “completely supportive” of Hammon and her hiring. Hammon deliberated for several weeks and said she endured several sleepless nights while charting and contemplating her future.

Fargas and Davis patiently waited for Hammon to decide. Hammon said she went weeks without contacting Fargas before deciding last week.

“We weren’t really trying to move Bill out or anything like that, but Becky was the best person that we felt could lead our organization,” Fargas said. “I’m so thankful that she and her family saw the value in that because what we value in her.”

Hammon played eight years for the organization when it was known as the San Antonio Stars. She said she began closely watching the Aces during the 2020 season played in the bubble setting in Bradenton, Florida.

She was complimentary of Laimbeer, who helped the Aces morph from the worst team into one of its best — reaching three WNBA semifinals and a Finals in his four seasons.

“A championship is well within reach,” Hammon said. “That opportunity in itself, to walk into a situation with a winning team and the caliber of players that I’ll be inheriting from Bill and the foundation he laid, I’m super fortunate and super blessed. Obviously very excited.”

Hammon said fielding a coaching staff is her first priority. She indicated that she has a couple prospective assistants in mind. Free agency begins Jan. 15. The Aces also have to construct their roster with only five players under contract.

The Aces under Laimbeer played primarily through the low post and minimized 3-point attempts in an effort to dominate the interior and generate free-throw opportunities. Hammon said she doesn’t anticipate an overhaul or massive changes, but did say that she anticipates the Aces will shoot more 3-pointers and play more in transition.

“They have some really good pieces in place. What it’s about is finding the chemistry with those players … but also adding a few pieces that fit the style that I want to play,” Hammon said. “The type of player that I really want is a competitive one. … I want really competitive players that want to be there and want to work hard and buy in right from the start.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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