Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio is busy keeping the her team on track for the WNBA playoffs in only her second season at the helm, but also can't help keeping an eye on the U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team in Athens.
McConnell Serio is not only a former WNBA point guard, but also a two-time U.S. Olympian, representing USA Basketball in 1988 and 1992 and winning gold at the Seoul Games and bronze in Barcelona. In 1988 McConnell Serio finished among the U.S. leaders in the following categories: three-point field goals (five, first), three-point field goal percentage (71.4%, first), assists (11, tie-second), free throw percentage (91.7%, tie-second) and points (8.4 ppg, fifth).
She is also watching as her star shooting guard Katie Smith fully recovers from a knee injury and gets back on the floor to help the United States win another gold. She chatted with WNBA.com on Thursday, Aug. 19. Here is what she had to say:
Michael (L.A): Suzie, comparing your success as a head coach after playing in the WNBA, with the problems that former NBA players have had coaching, do you think more WNBA organizations will learn that NBA experience doesn't translate into WNBA coaching ability? The WNBA is a different (better) game!
Suzie McConnell Serio: I can only speak from my experience but as a player in this league, I have an understanding of what the players go through on a daily basis — the practices, games, travel, the stresses, etc. NBA coaches bring a different kind of experience.
Cheryel (Brooklyn Park): Who do you think is the USA's toughtest competition in the Olympics? Do you wish you were out there playing?
Suzie McConnell Serio: I would say that the toughest competition for the U.S. would probably be Australia and Russia because they have players who have played in the WNBA — past and present — and know these players very well. They are great teams. As for playing, I loved my experience being on two Olympic teams and wouldn't trade them for anything. Part of me would love to play again, but I am very happy coaching and being involved at this level.
Matt (Sandusky, OH) : What is your fondest memory from playing with the Cleveland Rockers?
Suzie McConnell Serio: I have two fondest memories from playing in Cleveland. First was my first game playing professionally — running out with my teammates for the first time, thinking about and feeling everything I had gone through and how well worth it it all was. My other memory was during my first year when we clinched the Eastern Conference in New York. That was something special.
Paul (St. Paul): How different is the international game, and do you think the returning Olympians will either be tired or have trouble getting used to the small ball and different rules in such a short period of time?
Suzie McConnell Serio: The international game is a little different, but not much for the women. They are so used to the physical nature of the game, used to playing against zones, playing with international players in the WNBA and going overseas and playing that game in the offseason. That experience is invaluable. Will they be tired? Coach Chancellor is using all 12 players (now that Katie is back), and none is playing extended minutes, so that will benefit them in the long run. But our teams are practicing on a daily basis. We are scrimmaging and practicing, so I don't think fatigue will be a factor in particular in September.
Gwynnie (Marlboro): Hi Suzie. We miss watching you play but love watching you coach. What was it like playing with Teresa in the Olympics? A five-time Olympian is a pretty rare and special thing. Thanks and good luck coming back.
Suzie McConnell Serio: Teresa Edwards, in my opinion, is one of the best players to ever play. When I played with her, she was the best in the world.
Teresa Edwards' mom: Will my girl Teresa be back with the Lynx next season, or is this my last chance to see my baby play professionally?
Suzie McConnell Serio: That will be up to T! We would love to have her back, but we won't know that until the offseason. She always has that itch to play and we would love to have her back.
Allie (NJ): Hey Suzie, my question is do any of your former USA teamates ever help you with coaching or give you pointers? Do you still keep in touch with your teamates? Thanks, you're awsome!!!
Suzie McConnell Serio: I really haven't gotten advice from anyone. I consulted with Anne Donovan when thinking about taking the job here in Minnesota and about a number of things. I also have an opportunity to coach Teresa Edwards right now, but not any real advice on coaching from the former teammates.
Tamika (LA): Nicole Ohlde — is she the best rookie not named Diana Taurasi, and if so, why?
Suzie McConnell Serio: I would say that Nicole is one of the best rookies, especially for our team and what she brings to it. She has had an immediate impact on our team and is someone we depend on greatly. There are a lot of great rookies out there having great years.
Karen: I got a peek at the US Basketball Media Guide the other day, and I was wondering, who spent more money on hair care products on the 1988 team — you, Anne Donovan or Kamie Ethridge? You all would have made Jon Bon Jovi proud.
Suzie McConnell Serio: (Laughs) Hairstyles were different back then.
Steve Czaban (D.C.): What one rule change would you make to improve the women's pro game?
Suzie McConnell Serio: The only rule change that I would have considered would be to go back to the bigger ball that the men use and that they are using now in the Olympics. So many players play with the bigger ball in the offseason and they practice against the guys, but FIBA has adopted the smaller ball moving forward, so it will be consistent across the board now with the smaller ball.
Bill (Boston): The biggest difference in the Lynx from this year to last year seems to be on the defensive end of the floor. Was it a roster turnover, a change in defensive philosphy, or both that led to the improvement?
Suzie McConnell Serio: A combination. Our presence on the inside has also been a factor on both ends of the floor. There has definitely been an emphasis both years on defense. We definitely have personnel that can defend really well. Tasha Butts, Amanda Lassiter, Katie Smith, whoever. Across the board, we are deeper defensively. Nicole Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden, with their size inside, have been a factor.
BILL (SOUTHBURY,CT): What is the status of Svetlana Abrosimova? Is she healthy? Will she be a starter after the Olympic break? Are you looking to trade her?
Suzie McConnell Serio: Svet is healthy right now and playing very well. What we do with the lineup after the break has not been decided. We are not looking to trade her.
Andrew (Cupertino, CA): Lynx draft picks have strengthened the post this year which allows the rest of the team to play their natural positions. The league is so competitive at all positions. Are you using this break to strengthen the players understanding of how they can excel within their roles? Your career at point guard is a superb example of successful role play.
Suzie McConnell Serio: We are using this break to work on individual skills as well as concentrate on defense and execution. We are without Katie Smith right now, so that will hopefully make us better. Our depth has been key and I believe it will be so for us for the rest of the season.
Suzie McConnell Serio: Well, that's my time, I guess. Thanks, everyone, for your questions and for your support of the Lynx and the WNBA. Sorry I could not get to them all. Take care!