The Minnesota Lynx is celebrating its 20th year in the WNBA this season. In this 20-part occasional series we will take a year-by-year look back, featuring reflections from players, coaches, fans and others. This week: 2001
After consecutive 15-win campaigns, Minnesota’s 2001 season opener win would be the only time the Lynx played above .500. The team’s third WNBA season saw not only two five-game losing streaks, eventually finishing its third straight sub-.500 summer (12-20), but also its first home losing record (6-10).
“It was my first [pro] team,” Betty Lennox recalled in a recent MSR phone interview. Just the season before, she and Grace Daley became only the second rookie duo ever to combine for the most made three-pointers (72) for the same team. Now 42, she is the women’s basketball coach at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I was drafted number six by Minnesota. I’m very thankful that Brian Agler thought highly of me to draft me high that year” in 2000 out of Louisiana Tech, Lennox stressed. “I felt like it was a place where I [would be] immediately accepted.”
The 5’-8” guard almost immediately became a fan favorite. “The people and the fan base there were great to me,” Lennox proudly recalled. The rookie went on to rack up honors, including the first-ever rookie to make the WNBA All-Star Game and was later named the league’s top rookie. Her nearly 17-point scoring average was second on the team that season as well.
“Those were all awards that came along with the hard work that you put into the game and put into your craft,” Lennox explained. “What I’m very proud of is that I was the first person [in Minnesota] to wear [number] 22.”
The 2000 WNBA Rookie of the Year was expected to pick up where she left off a season ago. But her second pro season barely reached a dozen games before a hip injury shelved her for the remainder of the year. Lennox did return the following season, but she never showed her rookie form and eventually was shipped to Miami midway through the 2003 season.
“I was very disappointed in leaving there,” Lennox pointed out. “But I look back and say it had to happen in order for me to get that championship ring in 2004.”
After being involved in two dispersal drafts – first, when Miami folded, and Cleveland picked her up, and then when Seattle swept her up after the Rockers’ demise – Lennox helped lead the Storm to the 2004 WNBA championship and was named Finals MVP. She would play for three more clubs (Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Tulsa) before retiring in 2011 after 12 WNBA seasons.
But whenever she came back to Minneapolis, now as an opponent, the Lynx faithful always greeted her with warm applause. “I call Minnesota my first home,” she said. “I stayed there throughout the winter [her first two seasons], did a lot of community work, met a lot of great people, and influenced a lot of young people’s lives.”
She later started her own foundation in 2005 that works with child victims of neglect and abuse. “The impact I make [in such work] stands out as most important to me.
“I want to thank Brian Agler [now in Los Angeles] for believing in me,” Lennox said. She also thanked the late Anne Donovan (who died last month) who coached her in Seattle. “I am just grateful I was a part of a lot of legacies like hers and Brian Agler’s,” she added.
But the former player will always be a part of Minnesota’s legacy. “Let the Lynx fans know that I still love them,” Lennox said.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.