NEWARK - Adam Silver said Wednesday he "couldn't be prouder" of Becky Hammon after she led the San Antonio Spurs' Summer League team to a championship earlier this week, capping a season in which she became the first woman head coach in that league.
Last fall she became the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach in the NBA, also with the Spurs.
"Unless you're given those opportunities you're never going to show your ability to be successful," said Silver, the NBA commissioner. "I'm enormously proud of her and enormously proud of the players who quickly saw she is a top-notch coach and are willing to follow her."
But does Silver think we ever will see a woman head coach in the NBA itself?
"No doubt," he said, speaking before he appeared on a panel with Dikembe Mutombo and Teresa Edwards at the Prudential Center for Beyond Sport United, a conference on social consciousness in sports.
"I think whether it's Becky or another woman, we see the number of young women playing our sport, we see the number of women in the WNBA, we see increasingly the number of women who work in the NBA. Just like we've seen enormous change in our society just in the last decade, I think that's another ceiling, another barrier that will be broken.
"It takes women like Becky being out there. You need pioneers, and there have been other pioneers before her, but you couldn't ask for more of a complete package in terms of former player, a student of the game and someone who is able to work within a strong organization like the Spurs."
Hammon has another big supporter in Spurs guard Danny Green. "She is one of my favorites to be around," Green said at his summer camp in North Babylon. "Becky, she's my girl, man. She gives another perspective. She always has my back. She is up and coming, she's doing well. She's a great asset to our team, and giving us another perspective on the game. She is obviously well-respected because she played for so many years. And she was a point guard, so she sees things too, she understands the game. She's been a great addition for us."
Silver said male players' acceptance of women's basketball knowledge has come with more women who play the game at a high level.
"I think the WNBA is a very important platform for that, and so is college basketball," he said. "Increasingly what we're seeing with the NBA players is they have sisters, girlfriends, sometimes even wives, who have played or do play in the WNBA. It's interesting to me, increasingly this new generation of players coming in, how many of their mothers played competitive basketball. And I think that's part of it.
"I think that's how our players come to see, especially for a vocation like coaching, the fact you may not be able to jump as high as a man, or run as fast, in no way is a barrier to being a top-notch coach. But you need women to do it. You need them to have worked in the league, worked as assistant coaches.
"That's one of the great things about the Summer League that maybe doesn't get as much focus, and the same with our Development League. It's not just the development of players but it's the development of executives."
With Mike Gavin