AP Sports

Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces coach, denies bullying player over pregnancy

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon denied Wednesday that former Aces player Dearica Hamby was bullied on her team for being pregnant, saying any ill feelings between the two came from Hamby being traded.

Hammon, one of the league’s marquee figures, said in a video call with reporters she did nothing to warrant discipline from the WNBA, which suspended her for two games without pay Tuesday after a monthslong investigation into Hamby’s allegations.

“I’ll take my little lump on the chin and keep it moving,” Hammon said. “We’re bigger than this. It’s just not who the Aces are. It’s not who I am. And so, yeah, everybody’s disappointed in the situation, but at the end of the day, we know who we are and so we go to sleep every night in that truth.”

Hammon said she once asked Hamby about her pregnancy, but didn’t get into the specifics of what she said.

“I guess you’d have to ask for (the league’s) interpretation,” Hammon said. “But, yeah, that from my understanding was my misstep, if you will.”

Hammon, who in her first season last year led the Aces to the WNBA championship, spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and is considered one of the rising stars in the basketball coaching world. She has been linked to the vacant Toronto Raptors job.

The WNBA also rescinded the Aces’ first-round pick in the 2025 draft on Tuesday for a different issue — a violation of league rules regarding impermissible player benefits involving Hamby, who was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks on Jan. 21.

The trade allowed the Aces to clear up salary-cap space to sign former two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker.

“We made the decision to move Hamby because we could get three bodies in for her one contract,” Hammon said. “I think it’s very evident who we signed why we made the move, but (Hamby’s pregnancy) was never an issue and it was never the reason she was traded. It just wasn’t. It came down to math and business. That’s all it was. Nothing personal.

“I had a great relationship with Hamby the whole time, which is probably why she felt the way she did. It feels like a betrayal. It’s a crappy part of my job, but somebody’s got to be the bearer of bad news.”

Hamby said after the Sparks’ practice Tuesday she wanted “to move forward and focus on where I am today.” However, she said she “and the union will continue to explore our options.”

The union was especially critical that Hammon and the Aces weren’t more severely punished, saying in a statement: “Where in this decision does this team or any other team across the league learn the lesson that respect in the workplace is the highest standard and a player’s dignity cannot be manipulated?”

The league told The Associated Press that investigators — two former prosecutors, one from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and one from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office — interviewed everyone who they thought would have relevant information. That included people suggested by the WNBA players’ union.

The Aces were given a chance to provide names to be interviewed and they did not.

The WNBA said it interviewed 33 people and reviewed texts, emails and other documents. Hammon said none of the current Aces players were interviewed, and to her knowledge the only player the league spoke with was former Las Vegas player Liz Cambage.

Hammon also said she sent no negative texts or emails to Hamby.

“I actually haven’t seen that Dearica said she received nasty texts from us,” Hammon said. “I think that’s completely fabricated by somebody on the outside that doesn’t know what the hell’s going on.”

A league spokesman said to the AP that “it is true that the Respect in the Workplace violation included inappropriate questions Becky asked Dearica about her pregnancy. We don’t think it would be appropriate to comment beyond that.”

The Aces issued a statement Tuesday stating their support for Hammon.

“The WNBA’s determinations about Becky Hammon are inconsistent with what we know and love about her,” the statement read. “Becky is a caring human being who forges close personal relationships with her players.”

Hammon said she especially appreciated the support of owner Mark Davis, president Nikki Fargas and her players.

“That’s all I need to keep it moving,” she said.

Hammon became the first woman to assume the head duties in an NBA game when Gregg Popovich was ejected during a December 2020 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hammon also coached the Spurs to the 2015 NBA Summer League title.

She will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August. She was a six-time WNBA All-Star and became the seventh player to eclipse 5,000 career points.

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AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this story.

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