Patterson Brings Players' Coach Philosophy To Lynx
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For Shelley Patterson, becoming a member of the Minnesota Lynx was a right place, right type situation. Back in 2010 when WNBA teams were downsizing their assistant coaching positions from two to one, Patterson left the Seattle Storm organization and was about to begin her search for a new spot in the league.
But a phone conversation with Cheryl Reeve changed all that. Patterson called Reeve to congratulate her on just accepting the Lynx head coaching gig. From there the two began talking, and what began with a phone call became a journey together to the 2011 WNBA championship and beyond.
It was a chance, they concluded, for the two of them to work together.
A 23-year coaching veteran, Patterson has been around collegiate and WNBA programs for decades. But being part of the Lynx organization makes her look back at that moment in her career and be grateful for landing in Minnesota.
“All of the time, all of the time,” Patterson said. “It’s sort of like, they say one closed door opens up another. In this case, it opened up an even bigger and brighter door for me. I’m just really blessed to have the opportunity to work with Cheryl. She’s a brilliant coach. And Jim [Petersen] and I, he calls me his work wife. That’s how close we are. It happens for a reason.”
Patterson is in her second season as an assistant coach with the Lynx after spending her first year with the organization in a similar role as manager of player development and advance scouting. She’s a player’s coach, an individual who gets the most out of her players by knowing how to motivate them both in practice and during games.
Ask one of her guards with whom she works most closely and they’ll tell you she brings the best of both worlds to the Lynx organization: Patterson is committed to the sport and brings a wealth of knowledge while also knows how to approach and interact with her players.
“You might need to take a different approach to get [the most] out of different players,” guard Monica Wright said. “Every player has their own communication, ways they like to communicate or they like to learn. Shelley knows how to communicate with you and how to teach you.”
Patterson won her first WNBA championship ring as the director of basketball operations with the Houston Comets in 1999. During her career she’s served in several different positions for WNBA franchises, but it seems her role as an assistant coach with Minnesota has proven to be a niche of hers during her time with the Lynx.
She splits scouting responsibilities with Petersen, leads the guards during practice and oversees the warm-up stretches and drills that the team has done for the past three years—drills that Patterson said she thinks helped Minnesota fundamentally climb atop the WNBA in fast-break points, assists, 3-point shooting and field goal percentage.
One thing she’s noticed about the Lynx’s franchise is the camaraderie between the players, the coaches, the staff and the game-day workers. It’s something that has led to success, and it’s something not every franchise can say it has.
“Through good times and bad, we’re like family,” Patterson said. “Just like your family, you have ups and downs but find some way to pull it out, to pull out good stuff. And obviously in 2011 that good stuff was a championship.”
Reeve said that camaraderie comes from the top, and she relies heavily on her assistant coaches to help build that type of atmosphere within the organization.
“I think the chemistry between Jim and Shelley is very important,” Reeve said. “I think our players get a lot of confidence from that, and hopefully what they see in my interaction with those two, they gain confidence. Hopefully that trickles down into how they approach their business. Jim and Shelley are good people just like the rest of the players, and whenever you start with the core of being a quality person, you can do good things.”
Wright playfully said Patterson embodies all those qualities.
“Just so much goodness wrapped up into one little ball of woman,” Wright said, laughing. “She’s just awesome, man.”
Patterson said the players make it easy for her to do her job—another facet of this organization that makes her thankful for the opportunity that presented itself three years ago.
“You have to have good people to have a good program,” Patterson said. “You can have a lot of good individuals, and yeah one bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. But in our case, we haven’t allowed that to happen. If someone is drifting, we pull them back in and keep that family atmosphere.”
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