The San Antonio Spurs hired WNBA star Becky Hammon on Tuesday, making her the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff.
Hammon, who plans to retire from the San Antonio Stars after this season, spent time working with coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs last season and made a strong impression on an organization with a history of forward-thinking moves.
Hammon, who is currently in her 16th WNBA season, announced July 23 that she would retire as a player.
"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff," Popovich said in a statement Tuesday. "Having observed her working with our team this past season, I'm confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs."
Hammon is not the first woman to serve on an NBA coaching staff. Lisa Boyer, now associate head women's basketball coach at South Carolina, served on John Lucas' staff in Cleveland in 2001-02. But Boyer did not travel with the team and worked with the Cavs' staff as an offshoot of her job as assistant coach of the WNBA's Cleveland Rockers.
Nancy Lieberman, the Hall of Famer who coached the Texas Legends in the D-League, said Hammon's hiring marked a special day for women.
"A glorious day for the NBA and an awesome day for women," she said. "The NBA has always been a leader in diversity and opportunity.
"I'm so proud of Becky, she's put in the work. The Spurs are not a bells and whistles organization, they didn't do this for PR. They did it because they believe she is the best person for the job. Pop did it because it strengthens his coaching staff."
When Hammon's 15th WNBA season was derailed because of a knee injury, Popovich invited her to attend his team's practices.
Popovich was asked in May whether women can coach men's players, and he replied, "I don't see why not. There shouldn't be any limitations. It's about talent and the ability to do things. It's not about what your sex is or your race or anything else."
Hammon also attended film sessions and sat behind the Spurs' bench at home games this season to watch Popovich at work.
"She wants to coach after she's done," Popovich said at the time. "Because she's not just a good player but a smart player, a great person in our community, just somebody that we all respect so much, we gave her the opportunity to sit with us during the year. She came to our coaches' meetings, argued with us. She did everything."
Hammon has been friends with Spurs teammates Tony Parker and Tim Duncan since competing in an NBA All-Star shooting competition in 2008.
Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, was a teammate of Hammon's during an All-Star Weekend event in Dallas in 2010.
Reached in Europe on Tuesday, Nowitzki told ESPN.com's Marc Stein: "I'm happy for her. The Spurs are a great organization and she will from the best [in Popovich]."
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant also chimed in: "Big fan of Becky since she was in college. Very bright basketball mind."
Named one of the WNBA's top 15 players of all time in July 2011, Hammon ranks seventh in WNBA history in points (with 5,809), fourth in assists (1,687) and sixth in games (445).
A six-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon has spent the past eight seasons with the San Antonio Stars.
She is their all-time leader in assists (1,112) and 3-point field goals made (493) while ranking second in franchise history in points (3,442) and games (218). In 2012, Hammon was the top vote-getter for the Stars' All-Decade Team.
The Spurs hired European coaching legend Ettore Messina to join Popovich's staff earlier this summer.
Information from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst was used in this report.
Becky Hammon hired to Spurs' staff