Becky Hammon Returns to MSG

WNBA great and former NY Liberty star Becky Hammon discusses the magic of Madison Square Garden in the early years of the WNBA and the current roster of the San Antonio Stars. Why is returning to Madison Square Garden important to you?
Becky Hammon: Getting back to The Garden is always great and good for the franchise. When New York does well it's good for the league. Coming back to MSG is going back to where it started for me... I don't know how many times I'll be back to play there.

NYL: Can you describe some of the magical moments you had at The Garden when playing for the New York Liberty?
BH: When I first got to the Liberty there was an energy and buzz around women's sports and the league. It was sold out every night. There was a camaraderie amongst the women who played overseas before there was a WNBA. To be able to come home and play for your country's league... there was just an overall gratefulness and chemistry between the women. The Garden was a magical place. And when you put all of that together it made a special unique brew.

NYL: The Stars missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, but were rewarded with Notre Dame's Kayla McBride as the No. 3 pick of the draft. What surprises you about McBride?
BH: I'm not surprised that she's doing well. I watched her in college. She's a gritty player. She can shoot and space the floor, which we like. She's only going to get better. I have confidence in her. She's already leaving her fingerprints.

NYL: Danielle Robinson emerged into an All-Star while you were out last year with a knee injury. Did you help or advise her? What's the adjustment as you rejoin the backcourt this season?
BH: I'm always talking to her and encouraging her. She improved on her own and that's what it takes to have longevity in this league: getting better and better every year. She's the one that said "I want to be good." I see her work ethic. Her athleticism is outstanding; no one else in the league can hang with her.
She's the young gun, I'm just spotting up (laughs. ) I'm riding her coattails a bit. Eventually this has to become her team. I try to help her emotionally become a better player. Being the best player doesn't always make you the leader; as a leader, you have to be about everyone else first and that's not natural for most people -- that has to be trained. Most effective leaders understand what other people need to be successful. Those are the little things I try to impart to her.

NYL: It's your 16th season in the WNBA -- what's next? Coaching?
BH: Coaching is definitely something that I'm throwing around. I love people. I love teaching and the camaraderie of teams. I've dabbled in TV stuff but the team aspect feels natural to me. I don't know when it will happen. I want to go out when I can still play. I don't want to be taking a spot on a bench somewhere -- I'd rather a young person have that spot.

NYL: You spent the offseason shadowing Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. What were the key takeaways? What was his personality like?
BH: He's actually funny, but he gets down to business. The way he coaches, communicates and leads stood out. He's very organized. The players and staff know his system. There's no slippage with him. He has a standard. Whether they're up by 30 points, 1 point or dow,n he's calling timeout and letting the players know. He's a ridiculously smart guy. I watched his intensity with game planning and then managing during the game. I was just a sponge.