The defending NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs, already stood in stark contrast to the rest of the league. They play "team" ball. They have an international squad of players who pass first and are generally heedless of their individual, statistical accomplishments. Now they've made another characteristically confident, groundbreaking decision.
On Monday, the Spurs named Becky Hammon as an assistant coach, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in league history. That's impressive, in and of itself. But it's augmented by the way the Spurs announced the move. The composition of their press release offers lessons not only in marketing but also in the way that proper marketing can complement your goals for a fostering a team-first workplace culture.
As Ben Collins pointed out yesterday on Esquire.com, the Spurs' press release of the announcement does not once say "woman" or "female." Just coach. "No mention of gender at all," he writes. "No room for self-congratulations when you're trying to win another championship.
Given how image-conscious and media-savvy pro sports teams are--especially if the story has a potentially trending gender-based headline--it's indeed remarkable that the Spurs' press release was so matter-of-fact in its absence of attention-seeking. Here are the first three paragraphs:
The San Antonio Spurs today announced that Becky Hammon has been hired as an assistant coach. Per club policy terms of the contract were not announced.
Hammon, who is currently in her 16th WNBA season, announced on July 23 that she would retire as a player at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Named one of the WNBA's Top 15 Players of All-Time in July of 2011, Hammon ranks seventh in WNBA history in points (with 5,809), fourth in assists (1,687) and sixth in games (445).
"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff," said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. "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."
The whole tone of it is: "We needed a great assistant coach and we found one. Here's some info about her credentials. If you want to make more of it than that, media, have at it. But here in San Antonio, we're concerned first and foremost with winning basketball games--not marketing battles."
Whether the Spurs can repeat as champions in a radically altered NBA landscape (now that LeBron James is in Cleveland) is another matter.
From their press release, you can gauge this much: Hammon is going to work hard and help them. And that's the only reason she's on their team.