Unlike the guy who for years would hit the sideline floor with a rolled-up program during Wolves games, Tonyus Chavers was the first Black female high school basketball coach in Minneapolis and once played in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-81), a forerunner for the WNBA. Normally sitting a few rows directly behind the north basket, “Coach” Chavers’ distinctive voice can be clearly heard above the arena’s canned noise, offering quick critiques and praises at each game.
“I am scared of L.A.,” admitted Chavers, the 2015 Top Teacher Award winner as a physical education teacher at Richard Green Central School in South Minneapolis, of the Sparks, Minnesota’s first-round opponent.
The fourth-seeded Sparks are playing well, as opposed to Minnesota, who have struggled through a brutal August schedule (6-6) and lost their starting backcourt to injuries for much of that stretch while trying to incorporate new players into the regular rotation.
“When we were winning, we had an almost 50 percent assists rate,” noted Chavers on the Lynx’s 12-4 pre-All Star start. Then guard Renee Montgomery arrived a few days before center Sylvia Fowles joined the club, both acquired in two separate trades. The changes wrongly convinced Lynx fans that their team winning the 2015 W title was a no-brainer.
Minnesota, however, posted a 10-8 post-All Star mark.
Seeing things through her coach’s eyes, Chavers, a longtime Lynx fan, continued, “I don’t think we’ve shared the ball as much as we have in the past. When you let the ball stick too long in one spot, it gives the defense a chance to rest because the [ball] movement is stagnant. I would really like to see the ball moving more and getting those open shots.”
Chavers evaluated the Lynx defense as well: “When we play defense as a team, where everybody covers their areas, we’re really hard to play against. We just got to work harder” getting around picks and screens, she assessed.
Furthermore, she’d like to see the Lynx be more aggressive defensively; “that leads to fast break points,” said the “coach.”
Here is Chavers’ quick scouting report:
If the Lynx’s starting backcourt isn’t back, “I’m afraid we are in a lot of trouble,” she pointed out on the Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen injuries.
Can Maya Moore alone carry the team? “Too many people are standing around waiting for her to do everything. Other people will have to step up. We’ve worn Maya out.”
The “X” factor? “Maybe if Devereaux [Peters] decides to get aggressive, she definitely could be an ‘X’ factor.”
What ultimately must Minnesota do for post-season success? “Solid team defense, sharing the ball — have an assist on just about every shot.”
On the playoffs in general: Top seed New York and “Chicago [are] looking good in the East, but you can never count out Tamika Catchings and Indiana. We’re right in the mix on the West side, but Phoenix scares me” as does Los Angeles.
She said Minnesota’s home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, however, gives the Lynx a slight edge: “When you look around the league, there’s not a crowd likes ours,” declared Chavers.
“I’m not going to give up on my team,” concluded Chavers of the 2015 Lynx. “We got our work cut out for us. We really truly do.”
Dawkins and Malone gone
A sad note: Within weeks of each other, two of the first players to go from high school to the pros have passed. Daryl Dawkins died last month at age 58, and Moses Malone (1955-2015) was found dead Sunday in his hotel room in Norfolk, Virginia. He was 60 years old.
Malone’s “iconic” prediction — “fo’, fo’, fo’” — that the Philadelphia 76ers would sweep through the 1983 NBA Playoffs was off by one game. The Sixers’ 12-1 post-season championship run is the second best in league history.
Malone played 20 seasons and was named among the NBA’s 50 greatest players. A 2001 Hall of Fame inductee, he attended last weekend’s 2015 induction ceremony. Norfolk Police reported that his body was discovered in his room when he didn’t report to a scheduled celebrity golf outing.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.