This article is mostly about the new coach, who was an assistant on Laimbeer's Shock teams, but it also mentions the fact that the Lynx just picked 2nd in the dispersal draft yesterday and have two picks coming up in the 2010 WNBA Draft (1st and 3rd) Yesterday they picked up Rebekkah Brunson, who will shore up their rebounding and bring some vet experience to a young team. Looks like losing Seimone Augustus for most of the year might turn out pretty well for Minnesota, they'll be somewhere between quite a bit better and a hell of a lot better in 2010.
Kstat, if you happen to see this - do you know if Ben York's characterization of Reeve's role with the Shock is correct?
Bringing a Championship Mentality
New Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve looks to enhance offense, discipline defense.
by Ben York
The Minnesota Lynx haven’t earned a birth in the post-season since 2004, and just twice total in their 11-year history. But, for new head coach Cheryl Reeve, all the pieces for a championship are in place; it’s simply a matter of belief, dedication and leadership.
Reeve comes to the Lynx after spending multiple years under former Detroit Shock head coach, and three-time WNBA champion, Bill Laimbeer. Reeve was a vital reason why Laimbeer had so much continued success in Detroit, and an integral part of player development and talent evaluation. The two share a similar philosophy of how basketball should be played – gritty, team-oriented, and hard-nosed defensively. “I have a confident way in expressing things,” Reeve said. “Bill really let me be myself and promoted doing so. That was really important to me. Call it an edginess, call it a swagger, but I have a confident belief in how to get things done and Bill appreciated that. Bill also had a great mind for the game and really impressed me on two fronts; the management of the game and the ability to think outside the box. Not every decision was popular or rosey but it was enough to push the team to get 1-2 steps ahead in our thought process.”
Needless to say, Laimbeer’s style of coaching has made an impact on Reeve, and she’ll bring a large portion of that mindset to Minnesota. “There are two very important things I learned from Bill that I will take with me. One, it’s not that hard – don’t over-think things. Two, just have fun.”
Though, it would be a huge mistake to assume that Reeve was hired to coach the Lynx simply because of Laimbeer’s endorsement. Through over 20 years of coaching basketball, Reeve has consistently been labeled a “players coach” but also brought a business-like approach to the game. For Reeve, the respect she earns from her players directly correlates with loving what she does and enjoying the relationships she has cultivated on and off the court. “I very much enjoy the interaction with the players,” said Reeve. “Whether it was Dawn [Staley], Deanna [Nolan], Katie [Smith], or anyone there has always been a mutual respect there in both directions and a trust that was built. I value their input and opinions. We showcase the best players in the world and that type of respect comes naturally to me since I love what I do.”
With an already impressive roster led by the returning Seimone Augustus, the Lynx hold the 1st and 3rd overall spots in the 2010 WNBA Draft as well as the 2nd pick in the Sacramento Monarchs dispersal draft. Minnesota has a unique opportunity to not only gain incredible depth, but also to add a player or two that could immediately vault them to elite status. “With the dispersal draft, it’s usually about getting the best player available,” said Reeve. “One aspect we need to address is rebounding and another would be the addition of a veteran presence. Depending on which way the drafts go, we could add a couple of really nice players, especially a solid veteran presence. Though, I’m certainly not going to use our youth as an excuse. In 2003, the Shock were a young team and look how that turned out.” That year, the Detroit Shock won their first WNBA Championship.
It also becomes increasingly clear that this Lynx team will go as far as Seimone Augustus takes them. All indications are pointing to an enormous year for the young Lynx All-Star who has spent the off-season in Minnesota rehabilitating her knee. “In order to compete, Seimone being healthy is key,” Reeve said. “She is a special, special player. She’s similar to how Deanna [Nolan] was for us in Detroit; take her out, and there is no question the result would be much different. I sat with Seimone just a few days ago and she is a very motivated player. I think it’s going to be a process and we’ll need to temper our excitement; it’s going to take a little bit. My biggest thing is patience. The good news is that she’ll have a full year of rehab done very soon. I know she is anxious to return.”
There’s no question that Minnesota has several players that can light up the scoring column on any given night. But, on the other end of the floor, they allowed a league-worst 46.1 FG% and over 83 ppg in 2009. Reeve’s first step as a head coach will unquestionably be to solidify the defense. “It has to be,” said Reeve. “That’s what will get us over the hump. I think our defense has what kept us out of the playoffs the past few years. Allowing 46 percent shooting from the floor isn’t going to cut it. Defense and rebounding is going to have to be our mantra. We’re going to have fun out there but our defense has to match our offense. We’re not going to be like Phoenix putting our offense before our defense, even though they proved you can win that way, but our defense has to improve. I’m a firm believer in that.”
Reeve comes to Minnesota at an incredibly exciting time. In this case, it’s not so much about rebuilding or searching for answers, it’s just about making the right adjustments in order to propel them to the top of the league. “It’s certainly an appealing situation,” Reeve said. “With the return of Seimone, the dispersal draft, and our two high draft picks we can really form our team for the future. I look at this as a 5-7 year window with a fantastic opportunity to accomplish great things; namely, championship. I love the challenge.”
Perhaps more important than anything, Reeve brings an enhanced level of credibility and coaching experience to the Lynx. She understands first-hand what it takes for a team to get over that proverbial hump. That type of leadership, especially to a young team, is invaluable. “I think the players have the confidence and belief in themselves to win,” Reeve said. “I don’t think belief is the issue. I think it’s about giving direction. I’ve been there, I know what I takes, and I’m committed and determined to get this team there.”
Follow Coach Cheryl Reeve on Twitter @LynxCoachReeve.