Andy Greder | St. Paul Pioneer Press
Before Lindsay Whalen was introduced last Friday as the Gophers’ new women’s basketball, she already had contacted Dawn Staley.
If there’s a blueprint for the Lynx point guard to follow as she juggles playing in the WNBA this summer and coaching at her alma mater in the fall, it’s Staley, who played point guard for the Charlotte Sting while coaching the Temple Owls from 2000-06.
“I’ve reached out to her and we’re going to talk,” Whalen said from the podium at Williams Arena last week. “Some of the things she did while she was playing and coaching will definitely be things I’ll try to follow and I’ll try to do.”
— Minnesota WBB (@GopherWBB) April 17, 2018
Staley hung up her jersey after 2006 and moved on to South Carolina in 2008, where she won the 2017 NCAA national championship. A year ago, she was named head coach of the USA women’s basketball team through 2020.
Staley, who led the Owls to four NCAA tournament appearances in six seasons, said she told Whalen, 35, that she needs also play for the Lynx for as long as she can.
“Because there is a great satisfaction to being on both sides of the (ball),” Staley said on a conference call Tuesday. “Mentally, it’s a little bit different, so it’s a breath of fresh air to be able for her to play for the next four or five months and get into the swing of things of coaching a college basketball team.”
Whalen said she, the Gophers and Lynx will discuss her playing career after the WNBA season winds down in the fall. In the meantime, Staley relayed some other tips she has shared with Whalen.
“My advice is to compartmentalize your life,” said Staley, who absorbed that lesson on the job.
While Whalen is helping defend the Lynx’s latest WNBA title this summer, Staley advised it’s “really important” to have staff members in the office reminding her of the to-do list, especially in recruiting. When she has three phone calls to make, Staley suggested having six numbers to dial.
“It becomes fairly simple when you are able to prioritize,” Staley said. “Your day has to be incredibly organized, and then when you get into a groove and once you get into a routine, it’s easy.”
— Minnesota Gophers (@GopherSports) April 14, 2018
Staley said she had to be strict about requiring offseason workouts be done in the morning, before the coaching work day “gets a hold of you.” Sleeping late all but disappeared, and pre-game naps will become trickier to pull off. She also advised the new Gophers coach not to change in her new role.
“I think she should just try to be her and do what she (has done) on the floor and leading Minnesota Lynx to many, many championships,” she said. “That’s who she needs to be. The coaching thing will come later.”
Staley said one of the hardest transitions is coaching athletes who aren’t as good WNBA players, something Whalen seems to understand. When telling Staley about drills she wants to run with the Gophers, she said, “I have to remember that’s not Simone Augustus coming off that pin-down (screen).”
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“She is going to laugh a lot because they are going to ask some great questions, and they are going to ask some silly questions and they are going to ask some stuff that is second nature to her,” Staley said.
Staley, who attended Virginia, didn’t have the added pressure of coaching at her alma mater like Whalen, who took the Gophers to the Final Four as a player in 2004.
“It adds a little bit of pressure to the equation, but when you have built-in excitement, it kind of takes the pressure off,” Staley said. “You know you are going to be supported.”
This article is written by Andy Greder from St. Paul Pioneer Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.