For 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section will feature a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series. This week: the Lynx’s winningest Black coach and other team diversity firsts
Diversity in the Minnesota Lynx organization for most of its existence since 1999 has been spotty at best: A grand total of five Blacks (two head coaches and three assistants) and one Black vice-president have been a part of the franchise at one point or another.
All told, the Lynx is as White-dominated in virtually every aspect of its operation as any other Twin Cities pro franchise or college program.
Here is a quick Lynx diversity quiz:
- Who scored the team’s first-ever basket?
- Who was the Lynx’s first All-Star?
- Who was the first Black assistant coach?
- Who was the team’s first Black head coach?
- The Lynx in its history has had only one Black male coach – name him.
- Who is the first and only Black front office executive?
- Who was the team’s longtime doctor?
- Who was the Lynx’s starting point guard in their first post-season appearance?
- What year did the Lynx have virtually an all-Black squad?
- Name the only Lynx player who was a mother of three at the time she was on the roster.
Patterson is the team’s longest tenured Black assistant coach, now in her fifth year. She began her WNBA coaching career in Houston as basketball operations director and won a league title in 1999, then spent four years in Indiana (2000-03), one in Phoenix (2004), and three years in Seattle before joining the Lynx.
With three more championship rings earned in Minnesota, Patterson is in essence the Lynx’s “winningest” Black coach in team history.
“I started my career with a championship, and if I would end it today, I’d end it with a championship,” admitted Patterson prior to this season. “…Every single one of those championships was a different journey. Every single one had a fond moment.”
The 22-year college and pro coaching veteran recalls, “The unfortunate death of Kim Perrot in 1999 brought our team close and ended up winning that championship” in Houston, the team’s third of four straight W titles. “Last year, to be able to get Sylvia Fowles and Renee Montgomery and having those veterans to win it… I didn’t know what was going to happen last year when we started the season. It was an uncertainty to me… When it all came together and we won in five [games] here at home, that was one of [the] fondest moments to date.”
This season Isler is in her first year on the Lynx basketball staff as a player development and video associate. Her responsibilities include individual skill and player development work. Associate Head Coach Jim Petersen recommended her for the job, she told the MSR.
“I couldn’t be more grateful — all of the staff have been open to helping me,” said Isler, a Carleton College graduate. “I am trying to help where help is needed. Right now I am learning as much as I can. There is a lot to learn.
“This isn’t just any organization,” said Isler. “It is the defending world champions. I take that to heart when I come to work every day. I try to do my best so we can be better.”
Answers to our quiz: a) Tonya Edwards; b) Edwards; c) Carolyn Jenkins; d) Jenkins; e) Jim Lewis; f) Angela Taylor as business development vice-president; g) Dr. Joel Boyd; h) Teresa Edwards, 2003; i) 2009; and j) Helen Darling, 2004, also first and only mother of triplets to play in the league
Extra credit: Name all five Blacks hired by the Lynx as coaches (look for the answer at the end of this week’s “From a Sportswriter’s Notebook”).
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.