Before Thursday night’s Mavericks game against the Spurs, assistant coaches Jenny Boucek for Dallas and Becky Hammon of San Antonio were chatting at midcourt.
Perhaps they already knew that they were about to make history.
When Rick Carlisle’s lead assistant coach Stephen Silas came down ill and missed the day-after-Christmas mage, it opened up a seat next to the head coach.
So Carlisle did what all good managers do. He promoted from within.
No big deal for a regular-season game, right?
Except that on this occasion, it meant moving special assistant Jenny Boucek from behind the bench to a seat alongside Carlisle and assistant Jamahl Mosley.
At the other end of the floor, Spurs’ assistant coach Becky Hammon took her usual spot next to head coach Gregg Popovich.
“I believe this is the first time in NBA history that there were two female assistant coaches on the front of two NBA opposing benches in the same game,” Carlisle said in a text message to numerous reporters late after Thursday’s game.
Sitting on the front of an NBA bench and in the row behind it makes a big difference for assistant coaches. The ones behind the bench operate as conduits between players and the coaches seated on the front of the bench – usually the coaches in charge of the offense and defense, as well as the head coach.
They also have individual responsibilities when it comes to making sure they are aware of foul situations, player minutes and other details.
Assistants on the front row directly have the ear – and the back – of the head coach during games.
Hammon is considered one of the trail blazers for female coaches aspiring to move up the ranks in the NBA. Nancy Lieberman and Boucek also are among the pioneers.
“Very fitting that two progressive and forward-thinking franchises like the Mavs and Spurs are involved in such a historic event,” Carlisle said.
Boucek joined Carlisle’s staff in July, 2018. Because she was pregnant and had her baby, Riley, shortly after joining the team, she did not travel last season.
That changed this season as she took on a larger role in player development.
Hammon has been with the Spurs since 2014 and gradually risen up the coaching ladder under Popovich.
On the road again: The Mavericks’ quick stop at home yielded a win over the Spurs to bump their home record to 9-7 and now it’s back on the road for three quick games before New Year’s Day.
They will try to pad their 11-3 road record starting Saturday against Golden State, which has fallen from elite to lottery bound because of season-ending injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Armstrong, plus the free-agent loss of Kevin Durant.
The toughest game of the trip figures to be Sunday in Los Angeles against the Lakers as the Mavericks face a stiff challenge in the second half of back-to-back games.
The trip concludes in Oklahoma City, the third consecutive season the Mavericks have played at the Thunder on New Year’s Eve.