A Little Magic is All She Needs
�I saw him play and he just looked like he had such a good time,� Reiss recalled, �He was such a great ambassador for the sport, and he made everyone around him better.�
Johnson�s style of play resonated in Reiss� collegiate success at the University of Virginia, and her eventual success as a WNBA player. At UVA, Reiss helped her team to three consecutive Final Four appearances (�90, �91, �92) while being named Academic All-American and Kodak All-American in 1992�the first backcourt player ever to be named to that list.
After her collegiate career ended, the only offers to play professionally came from countries like Israel and Spain since the now defunct American Basketball League and the Women�s National Basketball Association were yet to be formed. Interestingly, Reiss caught the acting bug while pursuing her sports management degree at Virginia and decided to enroll in drama school instead.
�I am not an overseas kind of girl. I love the U.S. Basketball provided me a lot of things growing up�most importantly an education, but I was ready to move on to other interests,� Reiss said.
A year later after beginning drama school, UVA Head Coach Debbie Ryan called her back to her old stomping grounds to serve as an assistant coach. Reiss once again made those around her better by coaching the Cavaliers to a few more ACC Tournament appearances. In 1996, the heavy chore of traveling and recruiting, coupled with the constant pull toward an acting career, provoked a move to Los Angeles.
It was then that her first role beckoned. Love and Basketball provided Reiss with her onscreen debut. Then came another call back to basketball, this time from WNBA Commissioner Val Ackerman in 1997. Ackerman offered Reiss a chance to attend a veteran tryout camp designed for the new league�s inaugural draft.
�I had five months to prepare after five years of being out of (competitive) basketball, but it was an opportunity I couldn�t turn down,� Reiss said.
Tammi Reiss brings her court experience to the Silver Stars bench.
�That first season was like no other,� Reiss recalled. �Playing in front of your family and friends for the first time since college and seeing fireworks every game�the enthusiasm was off the charts.�
After retirement, and a little time spent with other acting ventures including her role in Juwanna Mann, basketball called once again and Reiss returned to the Starzz in 2001 as an assistant coach alongside current Silver Stars Coach Candi Harvey.
When asked how she has seen the league change since those first few years, she commented that the product certainly has improved. She observed that the league has become more of a business, paying increasing attention to the bottom line. The owners know it is time to see financial growth. Reiss admitted the players now want more than just the opportunity to play at home, resulting in increased salary and free agency demands responsible for slowing the latest labor agreement talks.
Reiss acknowledges now that for the league to prosper, new market segments must be tapped for an increase in attendance. Like Magic, she said that players �must continue to be ambassadors for the game. We�re putting a better product out there�the athleticism is incredible, but they must be role models, because that is what the game needs.�
What Reiss likes most about the WNBA is that it provides such a fun and exciting atmosphere to families. She loves seeing kids in the crowd because of the liveliness they bring to the game.
�Kids create frenetic energy from the very beginning,� she said. �Sometimes the adults in the crowd don�t start cheering until the second half, but the kids are always excited.�
Reiss predicts that San Antonians will be surprised when they attend their first Silver Stars game. Although San Antonio saw some quality basketball when the Women�s Final Four was played here in 2002, she assures us we �will see the best female basketball players in the world go at it every game�without driving to Houston.�
Speaking of the Houston Comets, Reiss foretells that matchups with Houston will showcase an intense rivalry. Just last year, the Comets fell prey to the Silver Stars (formerly the Utah Starzz) in the Western Conference Finals and will be hungry for revenge this year. The matchups will also showcase two of the purest athletes in the game today: San Antonio�s Marie Ferdinand and the Houston�s Sheryl Swoopes. Watch out, too, for games against the Los Angeles Sparks, Reiss said. The Sparks eliminated the Silver Stars in the Western Conference Finals, so San Antonio will be looking for a little revenge themselves.
As for Reiss, she has more on her plate in addition to guiding another basketball team to a successful season. She will remain occupied with various business ventures including owning a Salt Lake City nightclub and an advertising/multi-media agency to go along with personal training. All of these endeavors fall in line with her desire to stay busy and be her own boss. Her parents worked several jobs while she was growing up and even started their own business, teaching Reiss that anything is possible if she works hard enough.
Reiss was also guided by a mentor, from a young age, towards making good decisions and accomplishing everything that she could have dreamed possible. Her goal now is to bring that hope to other young ladies.
�Too often, children miss out on opportunities because they aren�t exposed to them, and they are missing out on financial and personal growth,� Reiss said.
Reiss is proud, then, to be involved with any community outreach that involves children. D.A.R.E and Big Brothers and Big Sisters along with camps and clinics are Reiss� outreach projects of choice. Women�s issues are also close to her heart, especially breast cancer and Title IX struggles.
With her newest film project wrapped up and set to air on Showtime this fall, San Antonio Silver Stars Assistant Coach Tammi Reiss is ready to focus on the seventh WNBA season. Reiss predicts success for her team and the league as a whole if they stay cognizant of one thing: remaining ambassadors for their sport, just like Magic.