MONTVILLE, Conn. — Becky Hammon has led the Las Vegas Aces to a WNBA championship, her first title and the first for the franchise in her debut season as a head coach.
The Aces, formerly the San Antonio Stars, knocked off the Connecticut Sun in a physical Finals battle, clinching with a close win in the fourth game on the road. Hammon played for the Stars for seven years in her incredible playing career, spent eight years as a groundbreaking assistant for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, and in her first season as head coach earned Coach of the Year honors and a title.
Hammon is the first rookie head coach to win a title in the W. The Aces have a number of excellent pieces including MVP (and Defensive Player of the Year) A'ja Wilson and Finals MVP Chelsea Gray, and though they were clearly one of the best teams in the league, Hammon succeeded in her mission of putting those pieces together. She says she came to know how special this group of players was when she got to know them as people.
"They're unbelievable on the court but they are unbelievable humans first and foremost, and they care about each other they invest into each other," she said after the final buzzer. "It's been an absolute honor to be their coach and I saw excellence and I wanted to be a part of it. So I'm just super thankful. 1 through 12 I love you all. It's been so much fun. So much fun."
The Aces led for much of Game 4, but the Sun came back to take the lead in the final five minutes. Hammon went small, and Riquna Williams hit a pair of triples and a stepback jumper for an 8-0 run. Kelsey Plum iced the game and the championship with a jumper in the paint.
"You see them make shot after shot is pretty easy to have trust in them. They're just big players. They love big moments. And I think that's nothing I can teach that's in their DNA. That's who they are," Hammon said after the win. "I just get to reap the benefits of being their coach, and I'd be remiss to not mention Bill Lambier right there who put this team together and saw the pieces, and we talked about trust. We talked about trust and at the end of the day, that's exactly what it came down to any one of them, (Williams) coming in hitting big buckets I think at the end of the day, what I'm most proud of is we became a real team out here and team that cares about each other and trusts each other. And to me, that's the biggest thing that I'm proud of."
Gregg Popovich reacted to his former assistant's remarkable season after the job was done.
"We are all thrilled for Coach Hammon," Popovich said in a statement released by the Spurs. " Winning a championship is a remarkable achievement for a first-time head coach in her first year with a team, yet I'm not at all surprised by her success. Becky has proven over and over that she has a unique understanding and passion for the game of basketball. Congratulations to Becky, her players and the entire Aces organization. They played the right way the entire season and were a true joy to watch."