Teammates present Edwards her signed player banner to celebrate her retirement. Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty Images
Where Are They Now? Simone Edwards
Then: Last Original Storm Player, C 2000-05
Now: Assistant Coach, George Mason University
Stay tuned throughout the 10th Anniversary season as we check in with your favorite Storm players to see what they have been up to since the conclusion of their playing careers. We continue today with Simone Edwards, a member of the Storm All-Decade Team.
Through the first decade of the Seattle Storm's history, no player has captured the hearts of fans quite like Simone Edwards. The longest-tenured member of the inaugural Storm roster, the Jamaican stood out as much for her contributions in the community, her perpetually upbeat personality and her close relationship with fans as her production on the floor. The entire package made Edwards an obvious selection for the Storm All-Decade Team.
Since retiring from the WNBA at the end of 2006 training camp, Edwards has made her way into the coaching ranks. She joined Radford University as an assistant to Head Coach Jeri Porter in 2007-08, then followed Porter to George Mason University this past season.
This weekend, Edwards will return to Seattle along with teammate and close friend Kamila Vodichkova to participate in the Storm's 10th Anniversary Celebration Weekend. They join current Storm players Sue Bird, Janell Burse, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson and color analyst Adia Barnes as members of the Storm All-Decade Team who will be honored at halftime of Saturday's game against the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Before Edwards arrives, she chatted with stormbasketball.com by phone about what making the All-Decade Team means to her, memories from her Storm career and how she's enjoying coaching.
How are you feeling about coming to town this weekend?
I'm very excited. It's like returning home. It's been a while. I definitely want to celebrate with the fans and I'm looking forward to seeing Kamila.
Were you aware of the All-Decade voting?
I heard about it before because a friend of mine called from Seattle and told me while the voting was going on. I would have found out eventually, though, because I always go on the site to see what's new with the team. I'd just got done traveling and was home for a while.
Your thoughts on being selected to the All-Decade Team?
It's an honor. You feel loved because you've been left for a little while now and you still have those faithful fans there who remember you. It's very special knowing that out of all the people who have been through the Storm since 2000, they still remember me and my contributions to the Storm and the community. It's something I'm proud of and really feel honored. I'm touched. It's just exciting.
I don't think there's much concern about you being forgotten.
Of course not! They'll never forget the dancing! Me and Doppler, we go way back. We have our little shimmy.
Let's go back to when you first came to Seattle. Did you know anything about the city? Did you have any expectations as far as the team?
No. I didn't know anything about Seattle. All I knew was it was far away from Florida, where my mommy was, and Jamaica. I was calculating the distance - 'It's way up there.' But once I got to Seattle, I was like, 'This place is beautiful.' I loved the fact that I could drive and see the lake and the mountains and the snow. It was so beautiful. Then once everything started and I started meeting the fans and people around town, I just fell in love with the city. It's one of those things where you're just so excited to be a part of a team. I love basketball and I was excited to be there. Each year, I just came in and worked hard. It didn't matter if they said, 'You're on the bubble.' I enjoyed my teammates and I got along with everyone. They have the best staff. It's really hard to work in a company or something where you find so many good people and staff that were working with us. It was unbelievable. They were fair; they were fun. Each year I just came back and worked as hard as I could to be there another year - it worked. I think the fans had a lot to do with that. I work hard, but to tell you the truth my relationship with the fans really helped being in Seattle that long. When I played, it was mostly for the fans. That's why the championship really meant so much - you know it's due to these fans that are so faithful.
Those early years were rough on the court, but you had the support of fans and made a friend in Vodichkova. What was that like?
(laughs) You're so right. We were winning six games, losing by 40 sometimes. It was just incredible. Oh, those first years, losing all those games. I had never lost 20 games in my career. The fun thing about it is every time we stepped out there, we always competed. It wasn't working, but we always competed.
Kamila and I were roommates until she left the Storm. We were always together. We always talked about winning a championship - 'Oh, that would be great before we leave.' It's so special to me that I won one with her, because we used to talk about it all the time. The first year, when all came together as a team, our English wasn't that good. I was sitting next to her - 'You're from Czech, I'm from Jamaica.' People would see us and say, 'How do you guys talk? You don't speak the same language." I'd tell them I was teaching her Jamaican and she was teaching me Czech and we were getting along fine. We had so much fun because she's such a cool person.
It's one of those things where, through those difficult times it was hard losing all those games, but it was easier because after each game we lost at home, I didn't see the fans getting up and walking out on us, even if we were down by 20 near the end of the game. At the end of the game, I remember the fans standing and cheering for us. As a player, that's amazing that you can get that appreciation. They just appreciated the game. That's why it meant so much to be part of the Seattle Storm basketball team for all those years, because I know how much I'm appreciated and how much the team's appreciated by fans and people in the community.
Do you still keep in touch with Vodichkova?
We do by mail. When she had her baby, she sent me a picture. Lately, I got a picture of him. We still keep up. It's just a pleasure keeping up with her. It's not a daily thing, but we do communicate over the years. It's just a friendship that will always be there and someone that I'll always love and respect and admire because of the person that she is. I'm so looking forward to seeing her because it's been a while.
Would the last time you saw her have been when she was playing in Phoenix?
Yeah, that was the last time I saw her. It was so weird seeing her in another uniform after knowing her for so long. It was also weird trying to find another roommate because it was Kamila for so long. You know when you've been with someone and you know them and they know you and it was so easy. It was really hard when she left. I know how much she loved Seattle, and that was hard for her too. But it was awfully good seeing her in the league. I could get to see her whenever she came to play that year after.
Besides the championship, what else stands out from your time with the Storm?
All my appearances that I did with the Storm, especially with kids. Those were some of my favorite times. A lot of the things that had to do with meeting and greeting fans. Anything that I got to do with fans were some of my favorite times. The time with my teammates when we got together and barbequed on the top of the roof, those were special times. I also tell everybody my all-time favorite were all of my home games in Seattle. I looked forward to that more than anything. If I could have just played all home games, I would have. I looked forward to them. I looked forward to dancing with Doppler. I looked forward to going into the stands and playing with people's kids. Those were the little things that made it special for me, those little things I would do in the community, things I did with fans and things I did with teammates. The pranks on each other, the time in the back of the bus - it was time with my teammates that made it special, and the fans.
Let's talk about your new gig. How is coaching treating you?
Not bad. You know how much I love basketball. If I'm not playing, I might as well be teaching it. I love the game. It's not bad. I miss playing, I miss competing - I still compete for Jamaica. When I go to WNBA games, like the last time I went and I saw Seattle, it was hard to sit in the stands and watch your former team. I do love coaching, I do love teaching the game. I will continue until I find something else I can do, which will also have to do with kids and basketball or kids and sports overall. As long as I'm close to the game, I'm happy. Here at George Mason, my boss is really cool. It's about rebuilding, and I remember that from the Storm. You win a few games and look forward to winning a few more. That's what we plan to do here at George Mason - get better and win some more games, because we took over a rebuilding program. It's not bad.
Is it like the Storm in that going through those tough times makes eventually succeeding much sweeter?
Yeah, that's why I know that all the players that were with me back in the hard times back in the day - Sue and Lauren and Kamila - appreciated that championship much more. I definitely do. You feel so bad after a game you lost by 20 and you look up in the stands and see those people cheering for you anyway and you're like, 'It's another loss.' At the end, after all of that time, to see them cheering for you but now you have a championship? Oh my goodness. Nothing can beat that feeling. You're so proud, I think my head was going to be blown up. I was sitting there, really, thinking, 'This is not happening' - but it is happening! It was like a dream. All those years, that's all I wanted. Apart from being on the Storm, that's all I wanted - a championship in Seattle. It's a blessing for me to get it in Seattle. That city deserved it so much. Those fans deserved it. Like I said, you appreciate it more when you're there from the start. I've got my ring, baby! I love it.
When I was overseas, I sent out my resume to a few schools, and Radford was one of the schools. I had a few interviews, but she was the one I really liked. We have a lot in common. She's a really nice woman. I believe a lot in her philosophy. I thought she respected what I did, and she let me do my own thing. It's great being able to go out there and teach and not have someone looking over your shoulder because they trust what you're doing. It's awesome. I just sent out my resume to get a few interviews; this was the one I liked out of all of them, so I'm here with her.
10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION WEEKEND
How much of your coaching philosophy have you taken from Lin Dunn and Anne Donovan?
A lot. The three main ones are Coach Dunn, Coach Donovan and Coach (C. Vivian) Stringer. Coach Stringer is a mentor to me and I still keep in touch with Coach Donovan. I surprised Lin Dunn at the last game and I saw her team when they came to Washington. She had her accent - she said, 'Oh, what're you doing her?' She was laughing. Every time I hear Lin Dunn's voice, I can hear her shouting at me on the court, 'Simone!' I used to dream and hear her voice in my head. That's how much she used to call my name when I was playing. They're different, three different coaches, but they're winners. Under Lin, you could see we were getting better those years with her. Then Anne came in and by that point we were developing our games and had brought in some other people to help and we won a championship. Coach Stringer - great coach. I learned a lot from all these three. That's what I'm really imitating is a lot of things they do, but I still have my own beliefs. All the things I was taught by them - I'm good to go. I'm still learning, but who can go wrong with those three behind you for years and still there for you to guide you? I'm just lucky.
Do you still have the chance to do much work with your foundation around your coaching schedule?
I just came back from Jamaica, as a matter of fact. It's finishing tomorrow - we did a two-week summer program for these kids to come in. We feed them and they're learning, going to classes from 9 to 2. They just have to show up. We had nearly 40 kids. The money I have for my foundation has always been from auctions - my teammates would donate stuff, I'd do my things and sign them. It's not too grand, but whatever I did I used that money to help the kids. Hopefully one day it will be big enough that I can help more kids, but I've got a very successful program out there. Some of the kids that went through my program are getting great grades. It's helping a lot.
The guy that works with my program, he got an award from the governor of Jamaica for the work in the community because of what we do down there. So I got an award for what I did. It's making a change. I just got a center built down there a couple of years ago - two classrooms. It's small, but that's what I'm using to help these kids and adults in the community. They're learning masonry and different things so they can have a trade to help themselves. They're not paying for it. Like I said, it's not too grand. I'm out there asking players to donate stuff and I auction it off. Whatever extra money I have, I give that. I still get help from some of the Storm fans when I want to do a project. Jill Gallagher is there, my vice president - big Storm fan who sits behind the bench. She does a lot for S4C. It's still going. Anything for the kids. I just believe in helping others, so I'm trying as hard as I can to do as much as I can with my resources.