Storm Coaching Network Q&A: Kate Paye, Stanford

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Jeremy Repanich, special to | March 21, 2008
Kate Paye was born at the Stanford Medical Center, is the daughter of two Stanford alums, was a member of the Cardinal�s 1992 NCAA Championship squad and holds BA, JD, and MBA degrees from the school, so it should be of little surprise Paye has returned to Stanford to rejoin the Cardinal. Although Paye�s life is extensively entwined with Palo Alto, she actually spent a few years away from the Bay Area to pursue other basketball opportunities. Her first stop was a stint as an assistant coach at San Diego State University just after graduation. After a year, she put her coaching career on hold to play professionally, travelling north to Seattle to be a member of the inaugural Seattle Reign team.

Paye later played for the Minnesota Lynx under new Storm Head Coach Brian Agler before returning to Seattle in 2002 to suit up for the Storm. At the conclusion of her playing career, she completed her graduate degree programs and worked for a time as a corporate attorney. However, her urge to be involved with basketball led her back to coaching at Pepperdine, then again to San Diego State as an assistant coach. Now she has returned to Stanford to work under the Cardinal�s legendary Tara VanDerveer. Stanford won the Pac-10 Championship and is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which tips off tomorrow.

"I�ve always felt a real strong connection to Seattle. I love it up there and I was happy that was my last stop on my professional career."
Courtesy Stanford Athletic Department Was it difficult to end your playing career and did coaching help ease that transition?
Paye: It is a difficult transition to step away from the game. For so many of us who have played basketball for so long, it has really defined your life, structured your life and how you organized stuff. It was a hard transition in that respect, but at the same time - at least for me - it was time to step away and move in a different direction. I felt very fortunate to get everything I did out of basketball. I played professionally for six years and I was very appreciative that I had the career that I did. So in some respects it was tough to step away, but on the other hand it was certainly time, at least for me. I didn�t go straight into it; I moonlighted as a corporate attorney for a little while and I did that for about six months, but honestly I just missed the game too much and being around the game. I�ve always known in the back of my mind, since I started in college, that someday I would want to start coaching, so I thought, 'What the heck? Yeah, I went to law school and did all that but I really love basketball and I want to coach.' For me it�s been great to be back around the game, to reconnect with it. I love to teach basketball. I love coaching at the collegiate level where you can impact young people�s lives through the game. It�s meant so much to me and its fun to be able to share that with others.

You coached at San Diego State right after college, then when into the pros. What impact did playing professionally have on your coaching?
I think my professional experience has been huge in terms of what I can bring to coaching. You have the opportunity to and to play for different coaches, learn different systems, to be around the game to learn different ways of doing things and learn new concepts. There�s just that much more experience with the game at that high of a level - a more sophisticated level than the college game. It definitely expanded the breadth of my knowledge and now it feels like I have a lot to offer when going to coach at the college level.

What does having a professional player as a coach add to the staff and what do the players take from it?
I think it gives you credibility because you�ve played the game at the highest level, you�ve seen the best players, you�ve played with and against the best players and you�ve been coached by and worked with some of the best coaches in the game. And, in some respects, you�ve been where a lot of young players want to go. A lot of young players today want to play professionally, so they�re receptive to what you have to say and they try to pick up on what it takes to get them to the next level.

Was it always a goal to come back to Stanford?
I don�t think so. Stanford has always been a big part of my life. I was excited about my decision to get into coaching, I had a great experience at Pepperdine and a wonderful experience at San Diego State and it was very difficult to leave there. But quite honestly it was hard to turn down the opportunity to come back to Stanford, to give back to this program, to work with Tara and it�s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to do something I love and to be near my family. I wouldn�t say it was my goal along but I�m certainly happy to have this opportunity and who knows where my path will take me.

Was there something about playing for the Seattle Reign that made you want to come back to Seattle and play for the Storm?
I really love Seattle. My experience with the Reign was an awesome experience. Anybody who was involved with the ABL knows it was a special, special experience that we�ll always take with us which bonds people who were involved with the ABL. It was my first introduction to Seattle other than playing up there for Pac-10 games and it was fun to be able to come back to the city as part of the Storm. I�ve always felt a real strong connection to the city. I love it up there and I was happy that was my last stop on my professional career.

How did your time with the Storm prepare you for coaching?
Obviously working with Lin Dunn, but a lot of the guys from the Sonics side would come in to practice and do a lot of individual skill work and I really loved getting to see and learn from people who have been around the game so long and had a wealth of knowledge. You always pick up a little bit from someone, a different way of doing something or a different way of thinking about things. I think that was one of the opportunities that has really impacted my coaching experience the most.

Are there coaches from your past who you find yourself emulating today?
I think that every coach that I�ve worked with or been coached by has influenced me in some way. Without question, the biggest influence has been Tara VanDerveer. She anchors the foundation and is the backbone of my knowledge and philosophy and that�s something I�m very proud of. There�s no better place to start than learning from one of the best coaches in the game, and that�s Tara. I learned a ton of stuff from coach Dunn, from Brian Agler at Minnesota, coaches that I had with the Reign. Every coach, you pick up a little bit of something, whether it�s a different offense, a different way to run practice or different philosophies. There�s a thousand different ways to do things and I just really like learning all the different ways people go about doing stuff; it helps you figure out what you would do if you�re in charge.

You mentioned about your stint as a corporate lawyer, do you still have career aspirations outside of basketball?
I�m really happy with what I�m doing now. I�m glad I�m coaching. It�s something I�m passionate about, something I get up every day and I�m excited to go to work, so I�m very content with where I�m at right now and I want to see if I can take it as far as I can go. Fortunately, if things don�t work out and I get up one day and I�m not enjoying it, I do have a pretty good insurance policy in my back pocket.

What are your career aspirations within coaching?
I would definitely like to be a head coach. I�m not in a rush to get there but at the same time it�s something I�m working toward every day, to prepare myself to be a head coach. Right now I�m most interested in working at the collegiate level. I�d never say never about looking at the pro game; there are things about the pro game that I certainly miss like watching the game being played at the highest level, the sophistication of the game. Women�s basketball is growing out of control, how good these young players are these days. You look at our great freshman here, Kayla Peterson, or you look at Maya Moore at UConn - these kids are good and it�s really exciting to watch.

Has the existence of the WNBA by trickle-down effect raised the level of play in the college game?
Without question. The kids who are coming up in high school today and in college, as far as they�re concerned, there�s always been a professional opportunity for women - they don�t know any different. It does raise the consciousness and it gets young girls involved in the game soon and they spend more time and take the game more seriously. There are more opportunities for development and better coaches so without question the existence of the WNBA has had a huge impact on the increasing level of play at all levels of women�s basketball.

What�s a favorite memory of your time with the Storm?
I�ll give you a couple. I miss shootarounds where there�s always a half-court shot for a hundred bucks, haha. And I remember one of the funniest things that ever happened with the Seattle Storm is Simone Edwards once got the ball inside and she got doubled. Well, post players are taught to look outside for an open perimeter player and she found an open perimeter player in a white jersey - unfortunately it was Doppler on the sidelines. When she passed the ball right off of Doppler it was one of the funniest things I�ve ever seen.