Plenette Pierson, after a year away from playing, is back in the WNBA as a first-year Minnesota Lynx assistant coach. Pierson retired in 2017 after 15 seasons with three teams. She played her last summer in Minnesota and earned her third championship ring.
“I’ve had a longstanding relationship with [Lynx Coach] Cheryl Reeve and [Assistant Coach] Shelley Patterson,” Pierson said of her one season with the Lynx. “Shelley was my assistant coach my second year in the WNBA. Being here in my final playing was great.”
Pierson is among 12 former league players now on team benches as coaches. It might seem a natural transition for her to move from player to coach, but according to her, it wasn’t that simple.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards” once she retired, Pierson told me. “I just know I had a real love for this game, a passion for this game, and I wanted to give back to the game. I knew I always wanted to impact the youth.”
The Texas native played her college ball at Texas Tech (1999-03) and was the fourth overall pick by Phoenix in 2003. Four years later, Pierson became the W’s first Sixth Woman Award winner (2007), eventually played on three title teams (Detroit in 2006, 2008; Minnesota in 2017), and finished with a nine-point career scoring average, over six points below her 15.4 college scoring average. Pierson also played overseas for four off-seasons and played on two championships (Israel, 2012; Slovak, 2013).
But becoming a coach? “I tried to fight it,” Pierson admitted. “Most athletes don’t want to go into coaching their sport. You feel there is something else out there for you.
“So I fought it, said I wasn’t going to be coaching,” she continued. “But once I started researching and understanding everything, I was like, ‘OK, this is perfect, right up my alley.”
“Plenette has a bright future as a coach,” Reeve said. “Plenette demonstrated a strong understanding of the game and the ability to connect with players.” Pierson spent the past college season as a Wayne State (Mich.) University assistant coach and worked with post players.
With the Lynx, Pierson’s roles include talent evaluation, scouting, and player development. “I still have a lot of knowledge to give,” she pointed out.
Now a former player and coach, Pierson often must fight a typical teaching point: “I definitely see myself all the time trying to catch myself saying, ‘When I was playing I did this,’ because I was always a thinker, thinking of ways to help me remember how a play is supposed to work or where I am supposed to be.” But given Pierson’s playing success, you really can’t blame her.
Her best WNBA season, statistically speaking, was with Detroit (now Dallas) where she averaged almost 12 points a game coming off the bench in 2007. “I think so many players coming into this league think, ‘I was the 20-point scorer in college, so I am going to be a 20-point scorer in the league,” she observed.
“Everybody that is in the WNBA was a 20-point scorer during their time in college. Now you have to find something else that no one else is doing and be the best out there.”
“I was never the marquee player,” Pierson acknowledged. “I was that person who found a niche… It didn’t matter how many minutes I played or how much credit I got.”
No matter how long she stays in coaching, Pierson is glad to be giving something back to the game she loves: “I think that’s important.”