Get to Know Jim Petersen
Lynxbasketball.com: First off, welcome to the Minnesota Lynx.
Jim Petersen: Thanks so much, I'm thrilled to be a member of the Minnesota Lynx organization and to be able to work with such a great group of talented young ladies.
LB.COM: How did the hire come about... was it a long process?
JP: It really started when Coach Zierden and I coached our boys AAU basketball team together back in 2004. He was a Timberwolves assistant coach under Flip Saunders at the time, and I was doing television with the Tom Hanneman. Don and I developed a great coaching relationship mainly because we see the game the same way. He saw the way I taught the game and the patience I had with our players. We had a blast and we won a bunch of games in the process. Thatís really where it started. When Don was named Lynx head coach two years ago, he asked me to join his staff at that time, but former WNBA star Teresa Edwards ended up being a better fit. He told me to stay ready because he felt I could bring a lot to the table in terms of player development. At the end of the 2008 season, assistant coach Julie Plank ended up getting the head coaching job in Washington, and Coach Zierden asked me if I wanted a shot at the job again. I jumped at the opportunity to work with this talented group of ladies who are on their way up.
LB.COM: How long have you wanted to get into coaching? Is it safe to say this is a dream come true for you?
JP: This is a dream come true. I get to work with the greatest people in the world on the Timberwolves side, and now get to expand my role on the WNBA side. As far as coaching goes, I actually have been working with high school and college kids for the past 16 years at basketball camps, AAU basketball teams, or individual workouts. I love teaching young people how to get better. I've been asked about coaching professionally for years, but broadcasting games has been so much fun, I put coaching on the back burner. Working with Trevor Fleck and everyone at FSNorth: Tom Hanneman, Dave Dittman and Bruce Wolfe, is something I always look forward to doing. They are family to me. Now I get to grow my basketball family by adding more great people like Don Zierden, Jen Gillom, Ed Prohofsky and the whole Lynx organization.
LB.COM: Do you have any coaches you look up to for advice or that you're going to try and emulate while with the Lynx?
JP: I have always had a great deal of respect for coaching. I have spent my whole life around coaches and the game of basketball, and always knew I would get into coaching at some point. My high school coach Augie Schmidt had a huge impact on my life, and itís safe to say I would not be where I am today without his guidance and support both on and off the floor. Bill Fitch, my first NBA coach in Houston, showed me the importance of hard work and preparation. When I played for Don Nelson with the Golden State Warriors, I learned the importance of exploiting matchups and thinking creatively when making in-game adjustments. Nelsonís innovation to the pro game is unmatched in NBA history. As a player, I was blown away with Coach Nelsonís willingness to try new things and think outside the box. I am a big fan of the way Jerry Sloan and Greg Popavichís teams exhibit great discipline and precision. I think itís important to keep things simple, to play hard and have your players play the right way. Move the basketball, set good screens, know how to move without the basketball and play good, tough defense. I personally think success in coaching hinges on your ability to teach and get players to trust your system. Phil Jacksonís philosophy of expecting excellence and making basketball a spiritual journey is also instructive. He cares about his players and that helps him build trust, trust builds cohesion, cohesion wins championships. Too many players donít have high enough regard for how great they can be. I think Jackson gets a greater percentage of players to tap into their extra ability more often than other coaches. That is my goal. For me, other than ferreting out a detailed winning coaching philosophy, the question you have to ask yourself is ďhow do I get my players to run through a wall for me?Ē I think players want to know three things about you as a coach. First, they want to know you care. Second, they want to know you have an expectation of excellence. Third, they want to know if they can trust you. If I can accomplish these three things the other stuff will fall into place.
LB.COM: What is the biggest reason for your decision to try your hand behind the bench?
JP: The biggest reason is to take on a new challenge. I think I have certain abilities that can help the Lynx be successful, but I will never know unless I get out there and try. I've been coaching and working out high school and college kids since I left the NBA, but I've never had an opportunity to coach at the professional level. I am looking forward to the challenge.
LB.COM: You've been a behind the mic for eleven seasons now. How do you think the knowledge you've gained through broadcasting will translate to coaching?
JP: My broadcasting background will be every bit as important to my coaching as my playing career. In fact I think my coaching experience will make me a better broadcaster as well. I have had the benefit of playing for coaching legends like Bill Fitch, Bill Russell and Don Nelson. What I learned from them as a player has helped me explain the game to viewers as an analyst. Working the past eleven years as a broadcaster has allowed me to stay close to the game and be around great coaching minds like Kevin McHale, Flip Saunders, Dwayne Casey and Randy Wittman. I have watched hundreds of practices and talked the game with coaches from all over the league. That being said, I have a lot to learn about being a coach at this level. I will approach this job like every other job I have had...with hard work.
LB.COM: You bring a lot of experience from the NBA game with you to the Lynx. How will that help you and how does the play and athletes of the WNBA compare to those of the NBA? How familiar are you with the WNBA?
JP: Many people and experiences have influenced my basketball philosophy, not just my NBA experience. One of the things I learned early on about coaching is winning at any level is fulfilling. My first exposure to coaching came in 1994 in San Diego when I coached a 7th grade girl's team as a favor to a friend. I had so much fun teaching these girls how to play and realized girls in many ways listen and execute better than boys. We ended up winning the league championship that year and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the experience. In fact, I think I enjoyed winning that championship more than any game I played professionally. Itís not about gender or coaching the best players, itís about competing and trying to achieve a goal as a group. There is nothing like being a part of something greater than yourself. I'm also taking this as an opportunity to learn something about myself as a person. I've been watching the WNBA since its inception. I've been a Lynx fan ever since Andrea Lloyd Curry and Katie Smith played. Tom Hanneman and I had the opportunity to broadcast four games this past summer and we had a chance to get to know these women pretty well. After interviewing with Coach Zierden in 2007, I really started watching the game from a coaching perspective. I am a fan of so many WNBA players it is going to fun trying to figure out ways to stop Diana Taurasi, Lauren Jackson and Candice Parker. In terms of comparing leagues, there are many differences and many similarities. Obviously there are physical differences, but you still have to teach the same exact concepts to women that you teach men. You have to box out, defend pick-and-roll situations, run offensive sets and learn how to win. The men can run faster and jump higher, but as a coach you still have to get a group of athletes to buy into a common goal. Every NBA player I know who has been involved with the WNBA has raved about the experience. Former Timberwolves radio analyst Billy McKinney ran the Seattle Storm and told me ďworking with these women will be one of the greatest things you will do in basketball.Ē Rick Mahorn who coaches with Bill Laimbeer with the Detroit Shock has also told me how much he enjoys coaching in the WNBA. I think what makes the WNBA great is that the women are grateful for the opportunity to play professionally here in the states. Most of them get paid more to play in Europe, but having the WNBA is something they donít take for granted like the men often do with the NBA.
LB.COM: This team underwent a six-game improvement from 2007 to 2008 and features a roster full of young talent. Where do you see this Lynx team headed... and working with the bigs, what will you focus on to improve each of their games?
JP: As far as how I see this Lynx team, Iím really excited about the talent Roger Griffith and Coach Zierden have put together. Iím going into this season expecting to make the playoffs. We are still going to improve our roster via the draft or potential trades, but Iím excited about the future. Seimone Augustus is one of the most dynamic scorers in the world. Everything is easier with someone like Seimone on your team. Candice Wiggins is one of those rare athletes who is as charismatic as she is talented. Her energy is contagious, which really helps lift your team when times get tough. My main goal for our big players will be to help them become more efficient and aggressive. I can teach our women a great deal about post philosophy that will hopefully give them an edge against opponents. The main thing about playing in the post is being able to read and react to the defense. Working on and developing sound footwork technique is also essential to becoming a threat each time you touch the basketball. I have been working out with Nicole Ohlde for the past month, and Iím just so honored to work with someone as accomplished as Nicole Ohlde. Nicole has so much untapped talent, I want to help her become an All Star. I havenít had the chance to work with Nicky Anosike or Charde Houston yet, but I was really impressed with their rookie seasons. They both have such compelling rags to riches stories, I love what each of them stands for... hard work and perseverance.
LB.COM: What will your role be in the off-season? Will you evaluate prospects for the upcoming 2009 WNBA Draft? Potential free-agents?
JP: My role for this off-season will be to workout with anyone who is in town until camp starts in May. I told Coach Zierden that when Iím not traveling with the Wolves Iím available for whatever needs to get done. I will watch tape on potential college draftees and prepare for the upcoming draft. I have a pretty good handle on the current free agent market, but I still need to get up to speed on the top college players on Coach Zierdenís wish list. It is going to be a tremendous year and I canít thank the Timberwolves and Lynx organization enough for giving me this opportunity.
LB.COM: Thanks so much for your time, Coach.
JP: Haha, thanks so much.