Guru's WNBA Report: Reeve's Minnesota Squad Giving Atlanta the General Sherman Treatment
By Mel Greenberg
It looks like former La Salle star and South Jersey native Cheryl Reeve out of the Philadelphia area is on the way to matching General Tecumseh’s record of making quick work of Georgia, except the Minnesota Lynx coach is getting the job done in the WNBA.
Reeve’s Lynx, perhaps smarting and driven by last year’s upset 3-1 series loss as defending champions in the finals to the Indiana Fever, racked up another 24-point win over Atlanta Tuesday night with an 88-63 win at the Target Center in Minneapolis to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five finals.
The former assistant to current New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer in the heyday of the former Detroit Shock, now in Tulsa, Reeve has had Minnesota on fire since the season’s opening tip back in May when the Lynx were rather under-valued in predictions for who would role this month’s final chapter.
It’s difficult to not get ahead of one ’s self given the Lynx performance so far, but Minnesota’s compelling talent and depth make it likely that Reeve will continue to handle the march from the Midwest to Duluth, Ga., in the suburbs of Atlanta the way Sherman rapidly drove from Atlanta to Savannah to bring on the end to the Civil War in late 1864.
The amazing thing in her first stint as a WNBA head coach after her hire prior to 2009-10 is that in a short amount of time, Reeve is landing alongside the elite level of peers past and present with playoff success.
In some ways she is the new Van Chancellor considering his jump from the collegiate ranks at Mississippi to the former Houston Comets at the outside of the WNBA in 1997 where he went on to win the first four titles but in less playoff games played in that span prior to postseason expansion.
Maybe Reeve will need more games to add meat to the percentage but right now, she is 18-5 in playoff appearances to be the all-time percentage win leader at .783 heading into Thursday night.
Next up is former Los Angeles Sparks coach Michael Cooper with two titles in the mix and at .658 with a 25-13 record, while Laimbeer with three crowns in the mix follows at .628 with a 27-16 record and then comes Chancellor with four titles and a 20-14 record at .588.
In terms of playoff wins, Laimbeer is first at 27, Cooper follows at 25, Mike Thibault now at Washington moved into third at 21 with the Mystics’ opening first-round win at Atlanta, though the rest of it was built with the Connecticut Sun.
Chancellor and then former New York Liberty/former Sacramento Monarchs coach John Whisnenant are tied at 20.
Tuesday’s win locked Reeve into a tie at 18 with Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn, though winning one of the next three moves her into sole possession of six at 19, though if the playoffs extend to Sunday or next Wednesday on a potential Game 5 her percentage will drop somewhat.
In terms of eras, Houston’s Big Three were just-retired Tina Thompson, now Southern Cal coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, and new Loyola-Chicago coach Sheryl Swoopes with an impressive supporting cast.
Los Angeles was primarily about the legendary Lisa Leslie in winning two titles and earning three-straight finals appearances while Laimbeer in Detroit had an array of talent with just-retired Katie Smith, Cheryl Ford, Ruth Riley, and Deanna Nolan, the latter of whom could rejoin him with New York next season.
In Minnesota, center and former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson many times gets eclipsed despite her consistent double double performances because of the focus on veterans Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and former UConn star Maya Moore, who has been in the league just three seasons.
Though this post is culled from the WNBA playoff guide in looking at numbers, one has to mention Seattle coach Brian Agler, whose teams are always a threat win or lose, and may again be more of the former when Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird are back healthy again next season.
Obviously, talent-wise, Los Angeles and the Phoenix Mercury have the material but not the statistical numbers yet to challenge the ongoing Lynx compilation in the West, while the Chicago Sky, despite a quick exit in the first round of their first playoff appearance last month, also have a bright future driven by Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince and rookie-of-the-year Elena Delle Donne with a growing supporting cast.
Phoenix, headlined currently with former UConn star (this phrase gets so redundant) Diana Taurasi and rookie Brittney Griner, has two titles but has undergone several coaching changes in the Mercury’s history since being one of the WNBA charter teams.
Meanwhile, Reeve was invited to last week’s USA national women’s team training camp in Las Vegas as a floor coach but was unable to attend due to the Lynx’s advance to the finals.
Still, if title No. 2 comes this week it is hard not to see her named as one of UConn’s Geno Auriemma’s assistants on the national team for the FIBA World Championship next season.
A USA spokeswoman said the Olympics group to join Auriemma ‘s staff for the run to another Olympic gold medal at the Brazil Games in 2016 won’t be named until after the World Championship, though obviously several are likely to remain with the Hall of Famer all the way through.
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