Since 2010, the Minnesota Lynx have been one of the most successful teams in the WNBA. And there is one constant in their winning formula: head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve.
Reeve first arrived in Minnesota 11 years ago when she was hired as head coach following stints as an assistant in Charlotte, Cleveland, and Detroit. It was her first head coaching job, but she hit the ground running and quickly turned the organization around. Before Reeve’s arrival, the Lynx reached the playoffs just twice from 1999-2010. They haven’t failed to do so since. Minnesota has reached the postseason 10 consecutive years while winning four WNBA championships.
Entering her 12th season at the helm, Reeve is already one of the most decorated coaches to ever pace the sidelines in the WNBA. But her latest accomplishment might be her most impressive one yet: Making the Lynx a contender again this year and managing to not only avoid a rebuild over the last few years but carrying on that winning culture.
minnesota’s Winning Culture
Throughout Reeve’s time in Minnesota, one thing you always hear about from her players and league-wide is the culture she has established in the organization and the magnetic pull that creates for top players. The latest example came in the offseason with the free-agent additions of Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, and Natalie Achonwa.
“First of all, the winning,” McBride said shortly after signing with the Lynx this offseason. “They’ve created a dynasty. Being a young player and having to play against those teams, you could feel it.
“You could feel the energy in the building, and you could feel the energy in the city around this team. Automatically, as a competitor, you want to be a part of a winning team. Coach Reeve has done a great job over the last decade. She’s been there in creating that culture and creating that environment for this team in this city.
“Right off the bat, it’s something that you have an immediate respect for and something you want to be a part of.”
McBride, Powers, and Achonwa all mentioned getting a behind-the-scenes look at how Reeve and the Lynx operate during the 2020 season in Florida, something that factored into them each choosing Minnesota as a free-agent destination. Now that they are with the team — with the exception of McBride, who will physically join the squad in the coming days after playing overseas — Reeve and her winning environment have lived up to their expectations.
“I always knew coach Reeve was a basketball mind,” Achonwa said, “but when I sat with her in our first meeting in her office, first, I was just absorbing the legacy that was in her office.
“Then, sitting and talking basketball with her, it’s amazing to see how her mind works. You also don’t get her humor, you don’t get that from the outside. I always thought she was this hard-nosed, straightforward woman — and she is — but she’s got some jokes. She’s quick and witty, and that’s something I’ve learned firsthand.”
That rings true for rookie Rennia Davis, who was selected by Minnesota out of Tennessee with the ninth-overall pick in this year’s draft.
“From the outside, she just looked like a coach that knows how to win. That’s what I saw,” Davis said. “Being in practice with her, you see exactly why. She knows how to win games and championships. This is a great place to be for me.”
The culture Reeve and her coaching staff have established has helped generate perennial success in Minnesota.
Moves Made the Last Few Years
Although culture and environment are important factors, another reason for Reeve’s success has been the moves she made over the last few years as general manager.
After winning the 2017 championship, the Lynx experienced a significant roster turnover, notably the departures of Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, and Seimone Augustus. But Reeve didn’t want to deal with any sort of rebuild, and she has masterfully maneuvered to avoid one.
“I was bound and determined not to let (a rebuild) happen,” Reeve said earlier this offseason. “I was at a crossroads as well and was saying to Glen (Taylor), ‘I’m not here for any sort of rebuild. I’m not here for doing this where you have to build through the draft. That’s not me, and I want to keep this thing going.’ I feel very fortunate that we have been able to.”
In 2019, Reeve stole the eventual Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier at No. 6 in the draft, quickly incorporating her into the mix in her first season. This season she is trying to elevate Collier to an MVP candidate. She also added the likes of Bridget Carleton, who has carved out a nice role in the rotation and raised some eyebrows over the last year-plus, and Damiris Dantas, who will once again be a key piece among the Lynx’s post group headlined by Sylvia Fowles this summer.
Then last year, Minnesota had Crystal Dangerfield fall to them in the second round of the draft. She filled a hole at point guard and claimed the Rookie of the Year award, just like her college teammate did the year prior. This year, Reeve followed those two successful offseasons by signing the trio of McBride, Powers, and Achonwa in free agency and taking Davis at No. 9 in the draft. Exactly how those additions will work with the Lynx is yet to be seen, but the process of bringing them to Minnesota speaks volumes.
The impressive thing about Reeve the general manager has been her ability to find talent that can help the team right away. As for Reeve the coach, she’s done an even better job at maximizing that talent to get the most out of her players on an annual basis. The combination of both roles has resulted in Minnesota being projected as one of the top teams in the WNBA yet again.
Reeve has already reached legendary status for her work throughout her career, especially her time in Minnesota. But her latest accomplishment of turning the Lynx into a contender is perhaps the most impressive one yet.