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Lynx hire Katie Smith to complete Cheryl Reeve's aim for an all-female coaching staff

Cassandra Negley
New York Liberty head coach Katie Smith watches during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Indiana Fever, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Former New York Liberty head coach Katie Smith will join the Minnesota Lynx. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The Minnesota Lynx are bringing back one of their greatest players in program history by adding former New York Liberty head coach Katie Smith as an assistant coach, per multiple reports. The move is expected to be formally announced Tuesday.

“She’s a Lynx legend,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said, via the Star Tribune. “Having Katie back is exciting for the franchise.”

Adding Smith will complete an all-female coaching staff for the dynasty franchise. That’s something Reeve, also the general manager, said was her mission on The Cheryl Reeve Show .

Reeve says she wants all-female staff

Reeve, named the WNBA executive of the year for 2019, spent much of her show this week speaking about coaching and how to get more women into the coaching ranks. That took on a new chapter when the Liberty, which did not re-up Smith’s contract last fall, hired Walt Hopkins, an assistant with the Lynx, as their new head coach. (Hopkins is expected to hire longtime Lynx assistant Shelley Patterson, which would leave a spot for Reeve to fill.)

Reeve — who may have known she was close to hiring Smith when recording the show — said she has never been an advocate of excluding men from coaching women, but that had a new goal this year.

“I will going forward, as of 2020, you will see an all-female staff going forward for the Minnesota Lynx. That’s going to happen. And so we have to — I’ll do my part, a little bit like what [Notre Dame head coach] Muffet McGraw stated. Until it’s a better climate for women, that should be the case I think. All of us, again it’s not just a women’s job to advance women in these positions, it’s all of our jobs, but I know that it starts with women and it’s going to start with me. Being able to provide the next candidate is going to be female. And hopefully we can make some real change.”

Reeve’s coaching tree is impressive. Hopkins left after his third season to lead the Liberty, who have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft and can take superstar Sabrina Ionescu. In November 2018, the Chicago Sky hired James Wade away from the Lynx. He was named coach of the year for 2019.

McGraw’s epic speech on hiring women to coach

Notre Dame legend Muffet McGraw made headlines last spring when she told Lindsay Gibbs she was done hiring men. She went further at the Final Four, giving a speech that lasted more than two minutes. And in November, she told Yahoo Sports’ Liz Roscher she practices what she wants to support women coaches, especially given societal expectations.

Reeve said he stance was similar to McGraw’s and that she wants to be the change if others aren’t going to be. They are both trying to practice what they preach to give women more opportunity. As legendary coaches in their own ranks, they have the chance to get women into positions that are one step away from becoming a head coach.

Smith’s resume for Lynx job

Smith is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, winning three USA Olympic gold medals and remaining in the Lynx record books in three categories. She’s third in points (3,605, second in scoring average (17.6) and first in both free throws attempted (1,039) and free throws made (891) during her 1999-2006 run. She led the Lynx to the playoffs for the first time in 2003, launching a dynasty that includes four WNBA titles won every-other-year beginning in 2011.

Via the Star Tribune:

"From a basketball standpoint, coaching, she is exactly what the team needs," Reeve said. "Talking with Sylvia (Fowles, the Lynx center), her excitement to add someone like Katie is palpable. We worked together in Detroit. We have a strong feel for one another. I appreciate her competitive passion. And I also noted, when she was in New York, her great preparation."

Smith went 17-51 as the Liberty coach during a tumultuous two years for the franchise off the court. James Dolan put the team up for sale and shipped them out to Westchester, a long drive and a smaller place that forced attendance down. They’re now out in Brooklyn under the ownership of Joseph Tsai.

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