Shelley Patterson has been an assistant coach on Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve’s staff for the entirety of the organization’s seven-year run of excellence — one that continued Wednesday when Minnesota defeated Los Angeles in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals to earn its fourth championship. Patterson, who was also on the Houston Comets’ staff during part of their run of four consecutive WNBA titles, chatted Friday with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q How do you compare and contrast these Lynx teams and those Comets teams?
A The fortunate thing about being with the Lynx is I’ve been here for seven seasons and have really seen this team grow as a family. I was only with the Comets for Year 3 of that run … but I can’t say that was always the case with them. It’s been well-documented there was conflict [among the players]. I don’t see that with the Lynx. It’s such a blue-collar team.
Q When did you get the idea or come to the realization that the Lynx might be on the verge of something special?
A It’s funny you ask that because just last night Maya Moore and I were talking and we’ve been asked about the dynasty in the past. I have to say that in 2015, we both couldn’t say we were a dynasty at that time. After this week, this championship, we finally said we’re a dynasty. The way we beat Los Angeles, the way we came back, we can honestly say that was the best team we competed against this year and we came out on top. Lindsay Whalen asked me last night, “How many years do you think we have left?” And I was like, “You know what, this is our decade.” So who knows.
Q For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by Cheryl Reeve. We see her one way, but I’m sure you see her a lot differently being up close every day. How would you begin to describe her?
A She’s one of the hardest-working coaches I’ve ever been with, and I’ve worked with a lot of coaches, including four Olympic coaches. … I’ve yet to see any of them work as hard as her. One of the things she gives you is that she gives you her all. But one thing people might not know is that she’s a big softy. She has so much compassion for every cause and understands all sides of people and what they’re going through. She doesn’t get lost in the reality of life versus work. There is life and life issues, and she’s so compassionate about those things. … She’s probably one of the most fun people I’ve ever been around, and she’s very funny. It’s a sarcastic sense of humor, and I’m sure you know that.
Q I have to ask about Game 5 of the Finals. It looked like the game was in hand, and then it got really dicey in the final minute. What are you thinking on the bench as a 12-point lead goes down to three and Maya Moore starts going up for that jump shot?
A Well, I’ll be honest with you. I already had a talk with God before the whole series started and I knew we were going to win. So I was very calm. It’s funny you say that. Even after Game 3, I said, ‘I know this team. We are not going to lose this series.’ I think if Maya had continued to bounce that ball around with people coming at her, she would have turned it over. I’m glad she took the shot before she turned the darn ball over. But I personally always knew we were going to come through. That’s what this team always does.