San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is being interviewed by the Milwaukee Bucks for their vacant head coaching position. Hammon has been on the Spurs' staff since 2014, when she became the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach in the NBA.
The news of the Bucks' interest in Hammon has renewed conversation about the position of women coaches in the sport. And Spurs player Pau Gasol weighed in with his thoughts about Hammon and the idea of women coaching in the NBA in The Players' Tribune.
Gasol grew up with parents who were in the medical field. His father was a nurse and his mother a doctor. During his childhood, people would often mistake his mother for the nurse and his father for the doctor.
"In 37 years, I can honestly say, I've never once thought of my mom as a 'female' doctor." Gasol wrote. "To me, she has always just been ... a doctor."
In his open letter, Gasol applies similar logic to how he views Hammon as his coach. He bats down the criticisms leveled against Hammon one-by-one, including the idea that somehow, her presence on the Spurs' staff is some sort of PR stunt.
"Pop's only standard for doing anything is whether it'll help us in just one way ... and it isn't getting good p.r." Gasol wrote. "It's getting W's. And getting those W's The Spurs Way."
And don't even get him started on the locker room.
"In terms of the locker room, and in terms of behind the scenes, there really is no practical difference in this league between having a male or a female head coach," Gasol wrote.
It's the underlying cultural issues that really grate against Gasol.
"It goes to this idea that as we're making all of these amazing strides in society, in terms of increasing our social awareness, and making efforts toward ideas like diversity and equality, and just sort of creating this more inclusive world, somehow sports should be an exception," Gasol wrote. "It's this idea, for some people, that sports should almost be this haven, where it's O.K. to be closed-minded -- like a bubble for all of our worst ignorance. And that as athletes, if we have any problems with the way things are, we should (as the saying goes) 'stick to sports.'
"There are pushes now for increased gender diversity in the workplace of pretty much every industry in the world. It's what's expected. More importantly -- it's what's right. And yet the NBA should get a pass because some fans are willing to take it easy on us ... because we're 'sports'?
"I really hope not."