As Aces coach Becky Hammon and Sun coach Curt Miller paced through the first game of the 2022 WNBA Finals, the man took an integral part of both journeys in the competition from the 2,000-mile run. Sitting at home in Atlanta, Tom Cullen watched the Aces claim a 1-0 series lead, doing so without having an interest in rooting. “It’s really hard to pick a side,” he says. Regardless of who becomes the champion this year, Colin will be happy: “I’m going to be a winner one way or another.”
The reason is that just before the start of the 1998 college basketball season, Colin was hired as the head coach for Colorado State. He inherited a team with Hamon as a budding star goalkeeper. Miller was one of the assistant coaches he brought in.
During Colin’s first year with the program, CSU went 33-3, finished the season seventh in the country and lost at Sweet 16. “I inherited a team that I think was preparing to explode on the scene and be really good,” he says.
He still believes that group is “some of the greatest times of my life,” and recognizes that their success helped cement him into a coaching career. “No matter how many mistakes I’d make, Becky saved me from every bad decision,” he says.
Miller, who served as the team’s de facto defensive coordinator, agrees, saying that playing Hammon over the last two seasons with CSU “single-handedly propelled my career” and gave him “a chance to interview for key jobs down the road.”
“I’ve been pretty candid because I probably don’t get the chance to be a head coach without Becky’s leadership on the 1998-99 Colorado State team,” he said before game one of the finals. (For her efforts, Hammon was inducted into the CSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004 and the team, more broadly, was inducted in ’19.)
Both Aces and Sun are looking to win the franchise’s first title, as Las Vegas leads the series 2-0 ahead of Game Three on Thursday. has been shown. One notable example came a little over an hour before the chain’s opening tip, when Hamon stood on the podium addressing reporters and delivered a hilarious punch to her opponent.
“I can tell Kurt was here because I didn’t have to pull out [the microphone] She said. “Kurt and I got the same mic level.” But then she added, “I love Kurt. Kurt has invested in my life. Kurt has invested in my football life.”
This purchase was evident when Miller was an assistant with the rams. Often throughout his time with CSU, he worked as a coaching player – a “pseudo-defender,” in the words of Hamon. While doing so, Miller, who wanted to get the best out of his players, shared a degree so devoted that Colin sometimes remembers being “worried that Kurt would hurt someone.”
“He was 5’8,” says Colin, “but I would have put him there for a 10 minute brawl and he was leading both teams in the rebound.”
Miller recalls: “Yeah, I was a rebounding little keeper. We had a lot of fun. I played hard.”
Now, he’s just training hard, trying to make the most of his veteran pool. Hammon is similarly animated – she said after the first game that she is “lit up” at halftime, and her team is 38-34 behind. Neither Aja Wilson nor Chelsea Gray wanted to share the exact language she used.
Coleen always felt that Hamon would make a successful coach if she wanted to. He notes that her instincts and leadership skills were her strengths, and that while she’s always had strong opinions, “her opinions have been very accurate,” he says.
Long before her stint as an assistant under Tottenham head coach Greg Popovich, Hammon was a graduate assistant to Colin, returning in her first two WNBA seasons after her days with the Rams ended. (Former Dream and current Baylor coach Nikki Cullen also joined the CSU staff as an assistant, giving CSU three future WNBA coaches for the years at a time.)
“You didn’t know what level it was [Hammon] She was going to work as a coach, but when her football career was over, I knew she was going to be an incredible coach, because she has natural charisma,” Miller says. Speak before you really evolve.”
For now, though, Miller’s hope is that her insight is limited.
“I’m a huge fan of her,” he said. “But I will try to compete against her madly.”
Hamon agreed. “We’re trying to scream each other’s butt,” she said.
So back to the main question: Which of the trainees does Colin think will win the title this year?
“I’d like to see Kurt win the WNBA championship at some point,” he says. “But if I said I had to put my life savings on someone, I wouldn’t put it on Kurt or Becky. I would put it on Las Vegas talent.”
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