The first shocking news of the 2021 WNBA season came the day before the season opener when Seimone Augustus announced her retirement after 15 seasons. Is the Baton Rouge, La. native an eventual Hall-of-Famer?
“Oh yes, Lord, she better be,” declared Pokey Chatman last week in an MSR phone interview. “Let’s get real: She resurrected LSU. Solidified dominance in Minnesota. And to get gold medals and be a staple [on the USA Olympic team]—Seimone checks all these boxes.”
Augustus was the No. 1 2006 draft pick overall by Minnesota. Her early Lynx years entailed something she wasn’t accustomed to—losing. Eventually things in downtown Minneapolis turned around, and Augustus was a key part of four Lynx championships (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).
She was also an eight-time All-Star (2006, 2007, 2011, 2013-15, 2017, 2018), six-time All-WNBA, and a three-time USA Olympic gold medalist (2008, 2012, 2016). She was the league’s top rookie, 2011 Finals MVP, and on the league’s 20th-year anniversary team.
She left Minnesota for Los Angeles last season and had re-signed with the Sparks for this season. Instead, she now joins the coaching staff as the team’s only Black female assistant coach.
Augustus played collegiately at LSU, where she played in three straight Final Fours and won back-to-back Wade, Wooden and Naismith Player of the Year awards in 2005 and 2006.
Chatman was Augustus’ LSU coach and later coached her overseas in Russia. “I got to watch her in middle school,” recalled Chatman. “I got to coach her at LSU. And then I get to coach her again in Russia. To have a front row seat to her growth as a human, as a basketball player, as an ambassador…man, it’s crazy good.”
Soon after her arrival in Minnesota, Augustus achieved star status that only a select few in this area reach—being known on a first-name basis: Kirby (Puckett), KG (Kevin Garnett), AP (Adrian Peterson). And Seimone.
She’s a humble superstar who deferred her game to others for winning’s sake. “You think about Seimone’s legacy,” said Chatman. “For me, watching Seimone grow and blossom as a human being and expand her game on the basketball court. She’s a player that played her early years with the ball in her hands in high school, then turned around and became one of the best playing without the ball.
“What I think goes unnoticed is her ability to play with everyone because she understands the game. I’m just happy for her.”
Seimone had a killer midrange jumper set up by a killer crossover that lifted Lynx fans to delirious heights and drove opponents into frustrating depths. But her underrated skill was her passing—Augustus needed just 89 more assists to reach 1,000 in her career.
“If she’s in the middle of one of her moves on the bounce, she was able to complete a pass… [and] it was always right,” remarked her former college coach.
Augustus over the years protested, often loudly, that coaching was not in her post-athletic future. Joining the Sparks staff was equally as shocking as her retirement announcement last week.
Up and coming sistahs
Four WNBA teams this season have multiple former W players on the sidelines: Dallas, Minnesota, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Eleven of 12 teams have at least one former player on their coaching staffs.
BetMGM recently published a list of potential WNBA head coaches—six are sistahs: Noelle Quinn (Seattle), Crystal Robinson (Dallas), Tanisha Wright (Las Vegas), Chasity Melvin (Phoenix) and Asjha Jones (Washington). Quinn is “immediately ready to step into head coaching positions based on their resume and complete body of work” and was vital to Seattle’s two WNBA titles in 2018 and 2020, and Robinson is among “current assistants who…hold extensive head coaching experience outside of the league,” said the article.