SAN ANTONIO — Spurs assistant Becky Hammon became the first woman to head coach an NBA team in the regular season, taking over after head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a 121-107 loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night.
LeBron James celebrated his 36th birthday with 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Lakers’ third double-digit victory. The teams will complete the two-game set Friday night.
Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Popovich screamed at Brown and entered the court following a noncall on DeMar DeRozan’s attempted layup and a subsequent attempted rebound by Drew Eubanks. Popovich was applauded as he exited the court by several of the team’s family members in attendance.
Hammon said she found out she was taking over for Popovich when “he pointed at me and said, ‘You got it.’ "
“It’s a big deal,” she said. “It’s a substantial moment.”
Hammon took over the team’s huddles during timeouts and walked the sideline following Popovich’s ejection. Last season, as the Spurs rotated head coaches during scrimmages leading up to the season restart at Walt Disney World, she coached the Spurs in an exhibition matchup against the Bucks.
Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history. A three-time All-American at Colorado State, she played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as overseas before retiring to join Popovich’s staff in 2014.
The Lakers contributed to Popovich’s frustration and the Spurs’ fortunes didn’t get much better after the coach exited.
Dejounte Murray had 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and DeRozan added 23 for the Spurs, who lost their second straight after opening the season with two consecutive wins.