Lynx teammates work side-by-side at Ohio State in the offseason.

Sticking Together On the Floor and On the Bench

Lynx guard Katie Smith and forward Tamika Williams gave a whole new meaning to the word "teammates" this past WNBA offseason.

As members of the coaching staff for the 2004-05 Ohio State Women's Basketball team, Smith and Williams have spent a lot more time together the past six months than just about any other pair of WNBA teammates. Even though the road to the Final Four may have fallen short for the Buckeyes, who lost to Rutgers in the Sweet 16 this past weekend but finished with 30 wins, it brought the two professional players involved with the team closer together.

Despite not always agreeing on everything.

Smith feels at home back in Columbus.
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"Tamika is my boss," Smith says. "She's only 24, but she's my boss."

"I'm not her boss, Williams said. "She always tells people that. If something needs to get done, I'll tell her, but she's usually bossing me around to get stuff out for recruits or to get something signed. Even if she were ever to be late, I couldn't fire her or anything. That's all on Coach Foster."

Serious About Coaching

The 1997 and 1998 Ohio Player of the Year at Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, OH, Williams is in her second year as an assistant coach to Coach Jim Foster for the Ohio State women's basketball team, but has been with the program for three seasons. Williams is officially listed as the third assistant coach, but is able to participate in all aspects of coaching duties, including recruiting. Smith is currently a graduate assistant with the team.

Williams was actually a student assistant in the women's basketball office in 2002 while she was pursuing her master's degree in sports management, so she knows what it's like to be in Smith's position. Though considering that Smith is six years older, owns two Olympic gold medals and is one of the most prolific scorers in professional women's basketball history, that last statement seems mixed up.

"Tamika is great with her personal interactions," Smith said. "I think she was a communications major, so she definitely loves chatting and is very social. As far as coaching goes, she is very articulate and able to convey her knowledge.

A first-round sixth pick overall in the 2002 WNBA draft, Williams started in 33-of-34 games in 2004, averaged 7.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and led the league in field-goal percentage (54.0 %). Williams was also a two-time national champion at the University of Connecticut.

"She was successful at Connecticut and in with the Lynx, so she can do this," Smith said. "She just has a lot of knowledge to share and under Coach Foster, she is learning a lot about coaching."

Back on Campus

Williams may or may not really ne Smith's boss in the basketball office.
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Katie Smith graduated from The Ohio State University in 1996. She was the first woman to win OSU Athlete of the Year honors twice in her career and set nine career records. As a freshman, she was a part of the team that made it all the way to the NCAA Championship game. As a senior, Smith was a Kodak and United States Basketball Writers Association All-America as well as Big Ten Player of the Year. She was also named Academic All-American of the Year by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

"I wanted to stay close by, around the people who supported me," Smith said of her decision to attend OSU. "You also can't ignore the awesome traditions at Ohio State. In my four years there, the attendance was always great at home and we always had a loyal fan base on the road as well."

So it should not be a surprise that Smith returned to Columbus when she decided to attend dental school.

"I think just being around her alma mater and be a big part of everything that has been going on has been great for Katie," Williams said. "All of the records that we have broken this season were set by her 10 years ago. It's good for her to be around the athletic department, the alumni and boosters and her professors."

As a graduate assistant, Smith is able to help out in practice and join the team on the bench during games.

"Katie has been a great help to the coaching staff," Williams said. "If we need to send something out to a recruit, she will make copies and get everything in order. She does a lot of the little things around the office, making sure things get sent out on time."

Among the best shooters in the game, it may not be a coincidence that Ohio State was the top shooting team in the nation this past season and has the best field goal percentage over the past few seasons.

"She helps out during the game," Williams said. "She'll carry Coach Foster's chair out to the huddle during time outs. That's her job."

It's Not As Easy As It Looks

As successful as they have been as players and are now proving to be as coaches, making the transition to the bench has not been without its share of challenges for either of the Lynx teammates.

"I would say coaching is harder than being a player," Williams said. "As a player, I will always tell the coaches that I can do something or ask them to put me in the game. As a coach, when the team is not doing something right, I want to be a part of fixing it out on the floor, and I can't. The hardest thing for me to do as a coach was learning how to communicate how I would have done something as a player."

As an undersized center in the Western Conference, Williams has to be tough to be successful. So how does that toughness translate to her role on the sidelines?

"I'll yell every once in a while," Williams said. "That's the toughest part about coaching because I really want to be out there as well."

Smith and Williams have been teammates since 2002.
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Connecticut Sun guard Debbie Black was another pro influence on the Buckeyes this season, doing video work for Ohio State coach Jim Foster throughout the season. Black played for Foster when he was the head coach at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia.

Getting Back to Their Day Jobs

Now that the college season has come to an end for Williams, Smith and the Buckeyes, they can begin to focus on their own playing careers once again. The Minnesota Lynx qualified for the playoffs for the second consecutive season despite Smith missing the last 11 games of the season. However, without her in the lineup, they struggled down the stretch and were bounced in the first round by the eventual WNBA champion Seattle Storm. With Smith healthy, the mix of veteran leadership and young talent will make the Lynx a contender once again 2005.

"Coaching together helps us out a lot as players," Williams said. "Katie being around these last two years has made us much closer as friends. We've hung out a lot more and we have a greater understanding for each other. I don't know of any other team where two of the key players spend as much time together as we do."

Win or lose, Smith and Williams have shared something special together the past few years and remain a powerful tandem in all of women's basketball.

"Working with Tamika at Ohio State is a lot of fun and our group there is great to be around, Smith said. "We're like a family. It's fun to have her there and I consider her a really good friend."