GRIFFITH TO PURSUE COACHING AFTER RETIREMENT
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA All-Star Yolanda Griffith has confirmed her intentions to retire as a professional basketball player, following a season-ending injury in the third game the 2009 season. She plans to begin coaching after the 2009 WNBA season, her 13th as a pro and her 11th in the WNBA.
Griffith signed a free agent contract with the Indiana Fever on Feb. 19, 2009, and prior to the start of training camp announced this would be her final pro season. Since sustaining a torn left Achilles’ tendon on June 9, she has decided to focus on her future coaching career and not pursue a 12th WNBA season.
Currently second in WNBA history in rebounds (2,444) and among the league’s all-time leaders in points (6th), steals (4th), blocks (8th) and free throws (3rd), Griffith has continued working with the Fever coaching staff and players since the time of her injury. She regularly attends coaches meetings, practices and games while assisting Fever coach Lin Dunn with game-planning and instruction, and she serves as a sideline mentor to Fever players.
Before signing with Indiana and announcing her final pro season, Griffith intended to pursue a career in coaching after her playing days. Her injury has accelerated that schedule and provided a perfect opportunity to work directly with Fever coaches.
“Getting hurt and having to go through this nine-month rehab, my attention has shifted to learning and coaching because I want to be a coach,” said Griffith. “I’ve been learning a lot since I’ve been back with the team. My new direction is to join a coaching staff somewhere, whether in college or the WNBA. I’ve accomplished a lot in my playing career and played with a lot of great players. I’ve learned a lot from the many great coaches I have played under, and now my focus is on the next step in my life – and that’s becoming a coach.”
“With Yolanda’s leadership skills, she will make a tremendous coach,” said Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever’s chief operating officer and general manager. “She has already made an impact on our entire team by her input and insight from her view on the sidelines. As they say, when one door closes, another one opens, and I think for Yo, coaching will be as natural to her as playing.”
“We have been blessed to have Yo as our volunteer third assistant these past few weeks,” said Dunn. “She has such great knowledge of the game! Her ability to communicate and her leadership skills will make her a great coach at any level.”
Since Griffith’s arrival on the professional and international basketball scene, she has been among the best power forwards in the world – and at times considered the very best. She starred many years in Russia as one of the best players internationally, and she twice guided the United States to Olympic gold medals – in 2000 in Sydney, and 2004 in Athens.
She boasts a career that has spanned 311 WNBA games and a 2005 title with the Sacramento Monarchs. Griffith owns career averages of 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. She was a member of the WNBA’s All-Decade Team which was selected in 2006.
The world of women’s basketball has been the stage for one of the game’s most dominant rebounders. Prior to landing on that stage however, Griffith worked her way to becoming a Division II All-American in 1993. After growing up in Chicago and graduating from George Washington Carver High School, she attended Palm Beach (Fla.) Junior College for two seasons, before playing her final college season at Florida Atlantic University and leading the country in scoring (28.2) and rebounding (16.0). In 1997, she was made the No. 1 overall pick by the Long Beach Stingrays of the American Basketball League. She was the ABL Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie, and after the league folded in 1998, she was the No. 2 overall selection of the 1999 WNBA Draft, by Sacramento.
In her first year in the WNBA, Griffith was the league’s MVP, All-WNBA First Team, Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. Five years later, after a pair Olympic gold medals, she helped guide the Monarchs to their first WNBA crown. After her seven WNBA All-Star appearances, her last in 2007 and all representing Sacramento, she signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Storm prior to the 2008 season.