On Monday, Lindsay Whalen announced her retirement, and on Sunday she will play her final regular-season game at Target Center. With the playoffs days away and Whalen’s new career as Gophers head coach looming, she agreed to share memories of her career. Here are 13 thoughts from No. 13, a few thank-yous and an IOU:
1. First thank you goes to Coach T [Mike Thibault] for drafting me. I knew he was going to; he came to watch me in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break in my senior year. Now, he got to go to the Bahamas. But he still was watching me play instead of being at home with his family. So I figured he was serious.
I did want to stay home at the time after the run to the Final Four. But going to Connecticut was the best thing for me. I grew as a person. He taught me how to be a pro. I always think back to one conversation we had that helped take my game to another level. It was right after my third season in the league and we had lost to the Detroit Shock in the WNBA semifinals, the first time we hadn’t made the Finals in my time there. For me, personally, it was hard. I was coming off reconstructive ankle surgery that season. As any athlete knows, that first year playing after a major surgery is very difficult.
After that season he challenged me to get in the best shape of my life. He wanted me to get leaner, faster, stronger. He knew I was entering the prime of my career and he wanted to challenge me. As an athlete you think you’re already doing everything you can to be a great player.
It wasn’t the easiest conversation, but I am forever grateful. Because once I got myself in that condition, to play at that level, I was runner-up for the WNBA MVP and first team All-WNBA in 2008. He saw something in me I did not see in myself. And that’s the definition of a great coach and mentor. Thank you, Coach T!
With Cheryl Reeve at Monday's news conference
2. Thank you to Coach [Cheryl] Reeve. The 2010 season was my first back in Minnesota. It was also the first season there for Coach and Becky [Rebekkah Brunson]. We went through so many close losses that year. But I think we would all point back to that season as something we had to go through to have the success we had later.
We had one meeting in particular that I will never forget, in Coach’s office, after the All-Star Game in 2010. This conversation would change my career and, to be honest, my life. I had made it to a Final Four in college and two WNBA Finals but did not win a championship. I had never, as a player, been able to break that threshold. I always felt so much pride in being an underdog, and underrated. Those feelings carried me and my teams a long way, but never to the top. So, it went something like this: She asked me what I averaged during the 2008 season when I was first-team All-WNBA. And then she asked me to average that stat line in practice. Allen Iverson would have been beside himself. Practice? We’re talking about practice. Yes, in practice. So, my goal was to average 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in practice. This was when I truly started to realize as a player that how you practice is how you play. Those habits you create every day in practice determine how you perform. I’d always practiced hard. But now it was so much more focused.
Every day I had a mission, a goal. I was already driven, but now it had to go to another level for our team to be successful. My shooting percentages began to rise, my scoring, assists and rebounds came along with it. That fall I made my first USA Basketball national team and we won a gold medal at the 2010 World Championships. Four WNBA championships and four gold medals later I guess you could say I am thankful for that and the many other conversations me and Coach Reeve have had over the years. She turned me into a champion. I was always an underdog and loved that role. But being a champion is a lot more fun! Thank you, Coach!
3. Sylvia Fowles is the nicest dominant MVP there has ever been. Name me another MVP that helps organize the jerseys and shoes in nice and neat piles for the equipment staff. That’s right, you can’t. In 2015, when we reshuffled the deck and got Syl, we all knew we were getting a dominant low-post player. What we didn’t know was we were getting one of the kindest human beings on the planet. Three years after we traded for Syl she won the MVP of the 2017 regular season and the 2017 Finals MVP. Thank you, Syl!
Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Whalen in Lynx 2012 photo day
4. Seimone Augustus is the most unselfish superstar there has ever been. Name me another league-leading scorer and gold medalist who willfully sacrificed her scoring average and some of the spotlight to win championships. That’s right, you can’t. Seimone is the original Lynx. Without her unselfishness, killer jump shot and unguardable crossover, none of this would have ever happened. She led us to our first championship in 2011 by her sheer will and determination. Her performance in Game 2 [36 points, eight rebounds] against Atlanta, at home, will go down as the best individual performance in a game I have ever been a part of. Thank you, Money Mone.
5. Maya Moore takes and makes shots other people would never dream of taking. She has done things few basketball players have ever done. There are two people in this world that have a “Wings” poster. Maya is that good. There is so much more to Maya though. She is funny, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, she is a great singer and songwriter. She just also happens to do something better than everyone else in the world. Thank you for your talent and grace, Maya.
6. Rebekkah Brunson is the ultimate champion, an all-time winner on an all-time team. Remember when your coaches always told you rebounding wins championships? They were right, huh? The all-time leading rebounder in WNBA history has the most rings. Makes sense. I can’t count how many games Becky would win for us because of her sheer heart and effort. Power forward is one of the most talented positions in basketball. We always had an advantage because we could just sic Brunson on whoever that opponent would be. And we always won that matchup. Thank you, Becky.
7. Taj McWilliams-Franklin taught me how to be a leader. Never afraid to tell you like it is, Mamma Taj taught all of us how to win in 2011. Taj is as much a part of these championships that we have won as when she led us in that season. Thank you, Taj!
Whalen and McCarville in 2004 with the Gophers
8. Janel McCarville always made things fun. One of the most charismatic, easygoing teammates you are ever going to find. We are about as close to being sisters as you can get while not being related. I am so thankful that, at the end of the regional finals against Duke, she put her arm around me for that famous hug. Now when I think of my college years and that Final Four run, that is instantly what I think of. Thank you, Janel.
9. Since about 2002 my life has been a little different from a lot of people. There have been so many things to be thankful for, of course. But something that gets lost in the shuffle a little bit is how difficult at times it must have been to be my younger sibling. I have four of them, and at least some of the pressure and the expectations put on them at times has been shared. I know it has not always been easy on them. But they always support. They come to the games when they can, and I know they are all just a phone call away. I am so lucky to have Katie, Casey, Annie and Thomas as my brothers and sisters. Thank you guys for being there for every step!
10. My parents, Neil and Kathy, are the reason all of me and my brothers and sisters are successful and carry ourselves the way we do. They taught us to be humble, hardworking, honest and loyal. We learned very early how to work hard to make a living and support your family. My mom had five kids, a full-time job, and somehow we made it to all of our activities and a family dinner most nights of the week. That is a real miracle. My dad worked the late shift for 36 years at 3M to make sure we had everything we needed. As I got older I began to understand and appreciate the sacrifices he was making every time he went to work at 6 p.m. and got home at 6 a.m. Thank you, Mom and Dad!
11. Thank you to my husband, Ben [Greve], who has traveled the world and back with me during this journey. He is my best friend and holds our house together. He’s been there for 15 WNBA seasons, 10 seasons overseas and those years on the Olympic team. We’ve traveled the world and had a ball doing it. I know there are plenty of sacrifices he has made as well along the way so I could get to play this game. Thank you, Ben!
12. Thank you to the fans. Creating a homecourt advantage at Williams Arena and Target Center is a partnership, and we did that together all of these years. Thank you for the years and years of support. Many more to come!
At her introductory news conference as Gophers coach
13. And finally, I have an IOU, if you will. We made it to the Final Four when I played at the University of Minnesota. It is now my goal to bring a national championship to the University of Minnesota. I don’t know how long it is going to take, or just how we are going to do it yet. But I won’t stop working until that has happened.