Q & A with Ticha Penicheiro

Q: What made you decide to retire now?

A: I knew the day would eventually come. This is my fifteenth season, and Iím going to be 38. Itís the natural process of things, and with all the injuries Iíve had, its hard to keep dealing with that. I feel like Iíve had every sign and omen all year. Basketball has been my life. Iíve been playing since I was 5 or 6 years old, so itís always hard to stop doing something you love. Iíve made peace with my decision, and I will continue to be close to basketball just not on the court.

Q: Looking back, what was the biggest moment of your career?

A: Itís hard to pinpoint one. You always think of the championships you won, but to me the most important thing is the friendships I made. Those will last a lifetime. Basketball has created a platform, first, for me to play for a living. Then, I have met so many incredible people, and been to so many places with them. The most important thing has been my teammates and the people I have met will be my friends for life.

Q: Who are some of the coaches that have had the biggest impact on you?

A: I think I took a little something from all of them. But, my dad was my first coach when I was 8 or 9 years old. My coach from college [Wendy Larry] had a lot to do with transforming me from a little girl into a woman. She had a lot to do with helping me grow on and off the court. In the WNBA, I had so many, but Jenny Boucek was pretty big. She has a great vision beyond basketball, so I learned a lot about life from her. I won my first championship with John Whisenant. Then finishing my career with Pokey Chatman has been great because sheís a playerís coach who keeps the mood serious when it needs to be serious and relaxed when it needs to be relaxed. I have had a great time playing here in Chicago getting to know everybody, and being coached by Pokey.

Q: What has been your experience like in Chicago?

A: This is an organization that works extremely hard to accommodate its players, and to make sure we have everything we need to perform on the court. It has been a change, though, because I played on the West Coast for fourteen years, but now Iím here. Chicago is a beautiful city though especially in the summer time. Downtown is beautiful, the fans are amazing, and everyone behind the scenes does a great job making sure everything runs smoothly for us.

Q: How would you attribute your ability to be so consistent from year to year in the WNBA?

A: Hard work, dedication, and passion are what you need to have longevity in this career. When you do what you love, it comes naturally and easily. Basketball has always been my first love, and I wanted to give everything I have to the game of basketball because it has given so much to me. I always want to continue to stay on top of my game because Iím not just responsible for myself, but for my teammates and the franchise. Also, as a point guard, I have to give credit where credit is due. Playing with amazing teammates who understand the way I play, it just made my job easier. I didnít do it alone. Itís always a team effort. It goes back to my coaches and teammates and of course the fans because they were always such a big inspiration to me to play well and stay on top of my game.

Q: Who were your heroes or mentors as a kid?

A: It was tough because when I was growing up there wasnít really womenís basketball at the professional level, so I looked up to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Those were two of my favorite players. But I would say my family. My family supported me by allowing me to pursue my dream. I packed my bags at the age of 18 to come to this country. It wasnít easy for my parents to see me leave, but they always supported me. Without them, I wouldnít be here today, so I idolize my family and my parents.

Q: What were you planning to do with basketball when you originally went to college as there was no WNBA?

A: The plan when I left Portugal was to come here, get my degree, and grow as a player and as a woman. I thought Iíd go back to Europe to try and play in Italy, but the wheels turned a little bit when the WNBA came around in 1997. Sometimes your plans change, and I thought I might be able to play in the WNBA. Since then, I have stuck around. I came here in 1994 and its 2012, so itís been a great ride.

Q: How has the league changed in the fifteen years youíve been playing?

I think its way more competitive. When I first started in Sacramento, we were 8-22 and teams knew they could beat us. Now there is much more parity. Teams can beat each other on any given day, and the talent is way better. So I think the league is in good hands, and when I look at younger players I see them working harder at a much younger age to play in the WNBA. Iím looking forward to being a fan of the WNBA whether itís at home or in the stands.

Q: Do you have advice for the young players coming into the league? A: Looking at myself, coming from a very small city in Portugal where basketball wasnít a big sport, I feel like anything can happen as long as you work hard and believe in your dreams. I was determined to come to the States, and like I said, it was my passion. So if youíre passionate about something, whatever it is, work hard for it. You donít want to look back and have any regrets.

Q: If you a chance for a do-over in your career, what would it be?

A: Easy. In 2006, we lost the championship series in five games against Detroit. We had an opportunity to close it at home, but we lost the game in Sacramento. Then we went back to Detroit and lost game 5. As much as I remember the championships and the wins, I also remember the losses that left a bad taste in my mouth. Also in college, we lost the championship to Tennessee. Those two. Iíd love to get those games back and then Iíd have three championships, one in college and two in the WNBA.

Q: What are you interested in doing when you are finished playing basketball?

A: At this point, I donít have anything definite lined up. I have some doors that are cracked, but I am someone that doesnít like playing too many instruments at once. I am playing the piano now but when I am finished I will play the guitar. I like to be focused at what Iím doing. One thing is for sure; I will continue to be close to the game. Basketball has given me so much, and I want to give back so that I can see the game continue to grow and be where it needs to be. Maybe coaching, maybe being an agent maybe broadcasting, but whatever it is I will be close to the game of basketball.