Pro hoopsters go to Harvard

Seimone Augustus
Seimone Augustus Photo courtesy of Twitter

Minnesota Lynx veteran guard Seimone Augustus was among seven Black female WNBAers who went back to school during the recent off-season. They participated in the new Crossover into Business program at Harvard Business School from early February to late April earlier this year.

Harvard Business Administration Professor Anita Elberse, who first started and teaches the semester-long course with NBA players, paired them with MBA student mentors. This year a new program was opened to WNBA players.

Augustus, Ivory Latta, Elizabeth Williams, Alana Beard, Kayla Alexander, Marissa Coleman and Tina Charles were in the cohort along with three NBA players.

“It took me a minute to respond” to a league email about the program, Augustus told the MSR. “I responded a week later. The application process was five or six essay questions: You had to explain yourself, why you need to be in a business program, what kind of business do you conduct, do you actively have a business…and submit it.

“I thought I didn’t get in because it took three weeks or so before I got a response back” from the school, Augustus recalled.

A 2009 Sports Illustrated story reported many NBA and NFL players, a few years after they retire, find themselves broke despite making millions during their playing careers. Such riches-to-ruin stories aren’t always published on female players after they retire.

Now in her early 30s and in her 13th WNBA season, Augustus is preparing for her post-athlete life. “When I turned 30, I was asked when am I going to retire, and the next phase in life is coaching,” she pointed out. “Why put me in that box because I play sports? Harvard opened my mind to things outside of basketball.”

The cohort examined two case studies: one on a business decision by NBAer LeBron James, and a software company working with a Georgia school system to develop a program for at-risk youth.

“It was cool,” Augustus reported. “[James] took equity deals, upfront cash for using his name, likeness and image in video games. The software company was there to listen to the feedback, pros and cons of the program they had set up.”

An LSU grad, Augustus said she didn’t know what to expect at the Ivy League school. “They [the students] told us to enjoy ‘the Harvard experience,” she said.  The players and the MBA students throughout the class talked and brainstormed ideas.

“No one had a wrong answer,” Augustus said. “You got graded on participation… It gave you freedom to have that critical thinking process. It was awesome to be a part of something different” than her former college days.

“[In] every university, or at least the university I went to, you just learn how to take tests. You go and learn different quotes [and] sayings then go answer some multiple-choice questions. You are just learning how to memorize stuff.” She found the Harvard experience more stimulating.

Augustus said she’s glad she took advantage of the Harvard program. “I’m glad for many reasons. Stepping out of my comfort zone… It opened up my mind in developing skills after basketball.”

A basketball ‘closer’

A baseball closer is the pitcher who comes in late and hopefully saves the game for a win. Just next door to the Twins ballpark, Lynx Assistant Coach James Wade last Thursday essentially recorded his first WNBA “save.”

When Head Coach Cheryl Reeve was ejected after she received two technical fouls with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Wade was pressed into service and helped seal the win for the host team.

“What a game to do it,” Wade told the MSR after Minnesota’s nine-point win over visiting rival Los Angeles. “The weird thing is that on timeouts, I am the one who draws their stuff up for us because I know it so well,” he noted of his opponents’ scouting responsibilities. “I know them [LA] a lot more than other teams.

“It was interesting, but a good experience,” Wade concluded on his first “closing” assignment.