Nobody was giving the four-time WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx even a puncher’s chance of being competitive a couple of months ago. Not after losing Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, and Rebekkah Brunson in the same offseason.
Instead, it looked like after nearly a decade of dominance, the Lynx finally were in for an overhaul, with Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles serving as a bridge to the future more than anything else.
Maybe the only people in the world who didn’t subscribe to that preconceived notion were the Lynx, because, well, coach Cheryl Reeve wouldn’t let them. As far as she was concerned, if the Lynx weren’t going to out-talent their opponents like they did regularly during their dynasty days, they sure were going to out-compete them.
“Somebody asked me what makes this group so special,” Reeve said. “They believe in themselves. They have from the get-go. There has not been a second thought about certain players not being here or anything like that. It’s always been about everyone that is here.”
Starting with Reeve, who should be the frontrunner WNBA Coach of the Year, if she hasn’t already locked up the award.
As much as Fowles deserves credit for stepping up as a force to be reckoned with inside, and Odyssey Sims deserves credit for her career renaissance after being acquired from the Los Angeles Sparks this offseason, both players agreed that Reeve is the straw that stirs the drink.
She has navigated the trials and tribulations brilliantly this season, leading the Lynx (10-7) to the second-best record in the Western Conference heading into Wednesday’s pivotal home game against the Seattle Storm.
Asked to explain how a team that lost so much has still managed to compete at such a high level, Reeve, not surprisingly, tried her best to deflect the attention away from herself.
“We just try to make sure we’re bringing in competitive people that hate to lose,” Reeve said. “I have to be around competitive people. I don’t do well around people that don’t care about winning or losing.”
Luckily for Reeve, she has been around winning more than losing for most of her career, especially since taking over as the bench boss of the Lynx.
That was something Sims recognized before she arrived in the Twin Cities, and something she appreciates even more now that she gets to be a part of it on an everyday basis.
“Everyone in this organization knows how to get it done on the court and off the court,” Sims said. “Just the little things are emphasized, whether it’s how we compete in practice or how we conduct ourselves when we’re in the airport. That stuff has really, really helped us.”
While it hasn’t always looked as pretty as it did back in the day, the results have been more or less the same, with the Lynx indefatigable in their efforts, finding a way to grind out wins by any means necessary, gearing up for what everyone hopes is another playoff run.
“She doesn’t let us settle,” Fowles said. “If someone comes in here and doesn’t think they’re the best of the best, then they don’t belong here. We have to come in with the right attitude and know that we all have that ‘it’ factor. We do a good job reminding each other of that. She don’t really have to say much.”
She doesn’t need to. She has cultivated a culture of excellence that speaks for itself.