Spurs add WNBA champion, 16-year veteran Candice Dupree to coaching staff

Another former WNBA player is joining Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs staff.

The Spurs are hiring WNBA champion Candice Dupree to the coaching staff, the team announced on Friday. Dupree last played in 2021 and was part of the NBA's Assistant Coaches program. She served as a guest coach for the Spurs during Summer League.

The hiring comes on the heels of another former WNBA player who worked for Popovich winning a WNBA title. Becky Hammon, the 2022 WNBA Coach of the Year, led the Las Vegas Aces to their first championship in franchise history in her first year at the helm.

Candice Dupree's career, coaching ascension

Dupree, 38, is a 16-year veteran who last played for the Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream in the 2021 season. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 14 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in her career. She's a seven-time All-Star and ranks fifth all-time in games played, fifth in points, seventh in rebounds, third in field goals and second in 2-point field goals.

She spent her first four years with the Chicago Sky after they drafted her out of Temple with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 WNBA draft. The majority of her career was spent starring for the Phoenix Mercury (2010-16). She also played for the Indiana Fever ('17-'20) and has two World Cup gold medals with Team USA.

In the 2014 Mercury championship season, she led the team in minutes (31.4) and was second in rebounds (7.6), second in field goal percentage (53.3%) and third in scoring (14.5 ppg). The team featured future Naismith Hall of Famers Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi as well as Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Penny Taylor. DeWanna Bonner, a member of the Connecticut Sun team that fell to the Aces in the Finals, was also on the roster.

Dupree is one of more than 200 candidates who have joined the NBA's Assistant Coaches Program (ACP), which is two decades old. It gives current and former players the opportunity to make connections, network and explore the coaching profession. It also serves as a talent pipeline to move up into the NBA coaching ranks.

WNBA players in coaching ranks

When Hammon first joined the Spurs coaching staff in 2014, it was met with pushback that the team was only doing it to look progressive or meet a quota. She said at the time that Popovich had to look at her as "genderless" and instead focus on her basketball IQ.

Hammon spent eight years there and was overlooked for NBA coaching jobs, so last offseason she seriously considered ones by the WNBA's Aces and New York Liberty. Both were former franchises she had played for in her career. She chose the Aces and it resulted in a roaring party on the Las Vegas Strip, WNBA championship trophy in tow, earlier this week.

Former WNBA players in the NBA coaching ranks currently include Lindsey Harding (Kings), Teresa Weatherspoon (Pelicans) and Kristi Toliver (Mavericks), who has juggled coaching and playing the last few seasons. Former NBA coach Niele Ivey took over the Notre Dame program following Muffet McGraw's retirement.

There are many more women in coaching now than in 2014. That includes a slew of former players working in the W, an aspect helped along by a rule put in place in the WNBA a few years back. The league allows teams to have a third assistant coach if one of the coaches is a former player. Seimone Augustus, as an example, went from being on contract with the Los Angeles Sparks to coaching in the 2021 training camp period.