By Justin Adams

(CBS4)– Becky Hammon and Chauncey Billups are one step closer to becoming head coaches in the NBA. The two Colorado products are finalists for the Portland Trail Blazers head coaching job, with Hammon becoming the first woman to be in the final stages of an NBA coaching search.

Hammon has been an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs for the past 7 seasons. She became the first woman to work as a coach in the NBA in 2014. Spurs head coach Greg Popovich saw her leadership abilities in action when she was playing for the San Antonio Stars.

“Obviously, I think very much of her abilities having hired her. That all began when I saw her play,” Popovich said to CNN.

“She was a leader, everybody on the team reacted to her, she was very confident, very competitive and she led the whole show. And when I got to know her and she was in our coaches’ meetings before she was hired, while she was hurt for a season, we found out about her knack for the game, her innate understanding of what wins, what loses, what has to be there to make a program.

Becky Hammon, assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, works with players on April 1, 2021. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

“So she’s got all of the tools necessary to be a heck of a coach in our league.”

She was a superstar for the Colorado State Rams, leading them to the NCAA Tournament in 1996, 1998, and 1999 when the Rams make it to the Sweet 16. Hammon is also the only women’s basketball player to have her jersey retired at CSU. She would go on to play 16 seasons in the WNBA and won a bronze medal with the Russian national team in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Billups grew up in Denver playing at George Washington High School before playing in college for the Colorado Buffaloes. Billups’ 17-year NBA career included two stops in Denver including one where he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. He was also a five-time All-Star and earned most valuable player honors in the 2004 NBA Finals.

Chauncey Billups (credit: CBS)

He’s now working as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers under head coach Tyronn Lue. When NBA games were on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lue stayed at Billups house in Colorado for seven weeks to go over coaching strategies.

“I went to Denver [for] several weeks and we dove into it for 4 or 5 hours a day,” Lue said to the LA Times. “He’s really locked into drawing up plays, what plays to run, knowing the system, knowing the play calls, and he’s done a tremendous job.”

There are also head coaching openings with the Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks.

Justin Adams