With First Female Assistant Coach, Spurs Lead A Cultural Shift

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A landmark court case could mean changes in the NCAA, and a woman takes her place in history on the NBA bench. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro talks with ESPN's Howard Bryant about the week in sports.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. Time now for sports. Scott Simon is away this week so no talk of the Cubs. But B.J. Liederman still wrote our theme song.

It's all basketball talk today, from a woman shattering some NBA glass from the bench, to a dynamic duo on the court, to a landmark court decision. And joining us from member station WFCR to talk about it is Howard Bryant.

Hi, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Lulu. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm good. Let's start with this court ruling handed down yesterday in which a judge ruled that the NCAA is in violation of the country's antitrust laws. What's the case and decision here?

BRYANT: Well, the case and the decision is that when you buy a videogame and it's got a basketball - a college videogame - and basketball players' faces on it, that player gets no money. And the players haven't been compensated for any of their efforts for making a multimillion dollar industry out of college sports. And finally, Ed O'Bannon, a former basketball player for UCLA, took them to court and said, this is wrong; we need to be compensated. You're using our likenesses. You're making billions of dollars off of us. And it's time for that to change.

It's a massive ruling, it can change everything in college sports - completely redefine what college sports has been. And I think what's really important about it from the NCAA's position is that the judge capped what the players could earn to $5,000 per year. So over the course of a college career, which may be four or five years, the players might top out at $25,000, which is nowhere near anything close to what the players actually generate. So I think you may see - more than likely - you'll see an appeal on both sides. The NCAA wants the decision wiped out and the players are going to say, well, wait a minute - you can't cap what we earn because that's un-American - no salary caps here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Another huge shift in sports this week - and this is news, I have to say, I'm really excited about - the NBA now has its first female assistant coach. Tell us about her.

BRYANT: That's Becky Hammon, who was playing for the San Antonio Silver Stars of the WNBA. And now she's going to be the first woman coach on the bench, full season, in the NBA in NBA history. In fact, in all of the four professional sports. And this is fantastic. This is exactly what - you're looking at the last 10 years. Unbelievable change happening in this country - in terms of the old structures, are changing. And especially in sports, whether it's gay players coming out, which we thought we were never going to see, and you see Michael Sam - Michael Sam last night with the St. Louis Rams played his first preseason game in football. And you're seeing everything changing right now. And I think it's fantastic, for a lot of reasons. One, if you're a basketball player, what you want to know more than anything else is, do your coaches know what they're talking about? It doesn't make a difference if you're a man or a woman - guys make fun of men coaches all the time, if they don't know what they're doing.

So Becky Hammond is a great coach. She's a very knowledgeable player and I think the players are going to learn a lot from her. And I think they're going to have a lot of different voices. And this opens the door for the next thing - if you get an assistant coach on the bench in the NBA, why not a head coach?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I agree with you. How about, you know, that happens right now?


GARCIA-NAVARRO: And speaking of the NBA, a big deal was finalized this week although it was rumored in the news for a long time. It felt like it was kind of a done deal, but it's a new deal.

BRYANT: It's an agreed deal and it's still not a done deal. Kevin Love is being traded finally from the Minnesota Timberwolves to play with LeBron James in Cleveland. And the deal cannot be finalized until August 23. But it's a handshake deal. It's an agreed upon deal. We'll see what happens what the new big three up north with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and now Kevin Love. I think it's going to be a fantastic move for the NBA. I feel kind of bad for Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick who was ecstatic about playing with LeBron James and now he's going up to play in Minnesota, but that's the business. What you're going to see here is a player like Kevin Love, who's been playing on a bad team for all these years, now playing with a great player. It's going to be nice to see.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Howard Bryant, senior writer for and ESPN the magazine. Thanks for joining us.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

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