Seimone Augustus laughed at the thought.
Augustus, the Lynx star guard, had just learned that Lindsay Whalen was going to be the new Gophers women’s coach. She was asked: How intense do you think Whalen will be as a coach?
“The ladies that are already there, and the ones coming in, better be ready,’’ Augustus said, laughing again. “She will be intense. Someone who doesn’t like to lose, who is super-competitive. They’re going to compete at practice. At shootarounds. In games. The intensity over there is definitely going to go up a notch.’’
She should know. She’s played with Whalen since 2010. Together they’ve won four WNBA titles in the past seven years.
And she’s sure of this: Whalen is ready. “This is amazing. Just amazing,” Augustus said. “A great opportunity, for the Gophers and for Whalen. If she coaches the way she plays, this is going to be exciting.’’
Over at Lynx headquarters Thursday, after the WNBA draft, new draftee Carlie Wagner — the former Gophers star — and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve were thrilled, too.
Wagner joked about how everyone on the Gophers, including outgoing seniors, had been on a group chat all day Thursday. “They’re rubbing it in all the seniors’ faces,’’ Wagner said. “They’re super excited over there. I think it’s going to be such an impact. A known name, she grew up here. … The University of Minnesota is jumping with joy right now.’’
Reeve? She did her part, in multiple phone calls with U of M athletic director Mark Coyle, pushing Whalen for the job. “I can’t imagine the excitement today over at the U of M,’’ Reeve said of Whalen’s surprise meeting with the Gophers team Thursday. “Imagine the team when Lindsay walked in. Talk about inspiration. They all know what Lindsay meant, not only to the Lynx but to Minnesota basketball.’’
Reeve knows. A former point guard herself, she has an extraordinary relationship with Whalen. They talk strategy, game plans, everything. One thing Whalen has always been able to do is sense what is needed — a shout, a joke, a pat on the back — as a point guard. She will as a coach, too, Reeve said, adding, “She has a feel for it. She’ll put a good staff together. She’ll hit the ground running. She has an exceptional mind for the game.’’
But it will take time. And work. Reeve recalled back in 2015 when Whalen was hurt, and Reeve let her be coach for a day against Chicago. It was an eye-opening experience for Whalen.
And she’ll need talent. Calling plays is the easy part. Getting talent is the challenge.
But Reeve is convinced Whalen will be able to be her point guard this summer while preparing for the upcoming Gophers season. And she’ll be ready when that season starts, Reeve said.
Whalen has played for great coaches — Mike Thibault in Connecticut, Reeve, Geno Auriemma at the Olympics. And she has played with some of the game’s best.
“Everywhere she’s been, she’s carved out her space, been so respected by everyone,’’ Reeve said.
For at least another summer Whalen will be wearing a Lynx uniform. To Augustus, it’s hard to think it might be the last.
“We’ve been together for such a long time,’’ she said. “But we all knew this would happen at some point. We’re slowly going to be trickling out. So if this is our last chance to play with Whalen, we want to send her out on a good note.’’