Time Right for Newton to Retire
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | April 27, 2010
After two days of training camp with the Seattle Storm, Chelsea Newton's body made the decision for her: She was ready to retire from basketball. Newton had been considering retirement for more than a year because of the physical toll her style of play took on her body, but wanted to come to camp with the Storm to make sure the time was right. It was, and Newton walked into Storm Head Coach Brian Agler's office after Monday practice and shared her decision with him.
"I asked Chelsea to really sleep on it and listened to what she had to say," Agler said in announcing Newton's retirement to the media after the Storm's practice on Tuesday. "From our standpoint, she's been somebody we've coveted for a period of time to be part of the Storm. We were looking forward to her being a part of our team this year. That being said, as much as we appreciated her as a player, it was a matter of really respecting her and appreciating her as a person. We are obviously supporting her on this."
"It's time for me to move on," said Newton, explaining her decision. "I've gone through six surgeries in my career and my body is just beat-up. I can't continue to play the way I need to play at a high level being in the pain that I'm in. It's just not the same for me anymore. I want to be able to walk when I'm 40."
While Newton is just 27, she had dealt with multiple injuries in recent seasons. She underwent knee surgery last summer, but it was her right shoulder - originally injured in college - that ultimately caused Newton the most problems. She had it operated on twice, but tweaked the shoulder overseas and was still bothered by it this week. Newton feared another surgery would have left her shoulder non-functional. Besides the pain, the injuries left Newton unable to play the game in her trademark style.
"If you've seen me play, if you know anything about me, I'm a go-getter - take charges, hit the floor," she said. "It was harder for me to get down and do that."
Jenny Boucek understood the sentiment. The Storm's director of player development and scouting, who coached Newton from 2007-09 as head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs, recognized the same readiness to retire and excitement about the next chapter of her life she felt when her playing career came to an end after one year in the WNBA with the Cleveland Rockers.
"When she talked to me yesterday, I could see in her eyes," Boucek said. "I knew exactly where she was. I could see in her countenance it was right. She didn't have to explain it, because I knew that feeling."
Newton hopes basketball continues to remain part of her life as she pursues a career in coaching. She spent the 2006-07 season working at her alma mater, Rutgers, as director of basketball operations under Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer. Newton said she'll be sending out her resume and searching for an opportunity, though she's also looking forward to taking some time off and relaxing at home in Louisiana between now and then.
Boucek believes that the same attributes that made Newton such a joy to coach will also help her during her own coaching career.
"You always knew that she was doing the right thing, saying the right thing," said Boucek. "That's why she's going to be a great coach - because she already thinks about what is best for the team in her decision-making and her actions. As a coach, that's ideally how you make your decisions."
Newton retires having played five WNBA seasons, four of them with the Monarchs. During her rookie campaign, she achieved the highlight of her playing career, helping lead Sacramento to a championship as the team's starting shooting guard.
"As a player, you want to accomplish some things," Newton said. "I'm just lucky and grateful that I was able to win a championship and be part of a great team in Sacramento. When you think about that, there's nothing else better. There's a lot of players who have retired and never won."
Never considered much of a scorer, Newton nonetheless carved out a niche as a second-round pick because of her defense (she was named to the WNBA's All-Defensive Second Team in 2007) and her heady play. She started all 34 games each of her first two seasons with the Monarchs. Three of her four Sacramento squads made the postseason, and Boucek credits Newton's leadership as being key to the Monarchs making a run in 2008.
"We had lost several in the row, we were last in the West, and they had a players' meeting," Boucek recalled. "You never know what they're saying in there. But then we went on to win seven in a row right before the Olympic break. We had a lot of vets on the team, but I found out through the grapevine that Chelsea was the one that spoke up. What she said resonated with the team and became their mantra for the rest of the season. She had a good finger on the pulse and enough respect (from her teammates) that she was very influential in turning the season around."
Leadership like that will be a big part of Newton's WNBA legacy.
"What do people say about Chelsea Newton?" asked Boucek. "I guarantee they all talk about her being the ultimate teammate, the ultimate warrior, the ultimate winner. Your team is better when she's on the floor. She's one of the smartest players I've ever coached. She has intangibles at the highest level. It doesn't show up on the stat sheet all the time, but you want her on your team, you want her on the floor, especially at big times in the game, you want her in the trenches with you. "