The longtime NBA assistant hasn't led a women's basketball team before, but supporters believe his teaching skills are just what the franchise needs.
Don Zierden, the new head coach of the Lynx, has a message for fans leery of the fact that he never has coached a women's basketball team before:
"I say, 'You're right.' But come out and see how we play."
The former Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons assistant coach was officially introduced Wednesday, calling himself a longtime fan of the WNBA and saying he's eager to learn more about the women's game and the team he will take over.
Toward that end, he already has brought a pair of differently experienced hands to his staff: Teresa Edwards, a women's basketball icon who played for the Lynx for two seasons, and Carolyn Jenkins, who served as the team's interim coach after head coach Suzie McConnell Serio was let go with 11 games left last season.
Rounding out the Lynx coaching staff is Ed Prohofsky, a former Wolves assistant whom Zierden considers a longtime mentor and superb defensive coach.
Of seven people brought in for interviews, Zierden, 48, rose to the top because of his proven ability to teach, said Roger Griffith, Lynx chief operating officer. The Lynx were the youngest team in the WNBA last season, finishing with a 10-24 record - second-worst in the league.
"We have a relatively young team," Griffith said. "But we feel it's a very talented team. We need someone who can teach those young players how to play better. ... We've seen Don on the court, teaching people, helping them get better. We've seen him on the white board. We've seen how he can get across to people."
Zierden's familiarity with the Lynx began with his sister, Debbie, who has been a season ticket holder since the team started playing in 1999. He attended four or five Lynx games a year before following Flip Saunders to Detroit in 2005. Midway through his tenure with the Timberwolves, he was asked to consult on how to boost attendance with the Lynx, and later he sat on the board that hired McConnell Serio in 2003.
Zierden also said he's evaluated about half of last season's game tapes so far and sees plenty of young potential. He called forward Seimone Augustus, the 2006 Rookie of the Year, a special player but said she was expected to do too much last season. He said he hopes to address that, in part, by looking at the free-agent market.
When he considered applying for the job this fall, Zierden said, he heard two common refrains: "'They're not successful; you're going to a bad situation.' And: 'You'll never get back to the NBA if you take this route.' "
To the first point, he decided to look past the potential negatives toward the positives: a chance to be a head coach and help players improve. As for returning to the NBA, he said: "Right now, my ideal scenario would be 10 to 12 years from now, retire from the Lynx head coach job and walk into the sunset."
He called the chance to move back to his native Minnesota "answered prayers."I can't tell you what a thrill it is," he said, "being born and raised in this great city, walking on the floor of Target Center, first as a Wolves assistant, and now getting a chance to do it as a Lynx head coach."
Prohofsky, who has known Zierden for decades, said his protégé's greatest asset is his ability to teach and communicate.
"If the players believe and respect who they're working for, they'll work their rears off," he said. "Donnie brings that to the floor. They'll like him. They'll want to work for him."
Pam Schmid 612-673-4565 firstname.lastname@example.org
|Seattle - LP: C. Furbush||8||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: J. Smith||10|
|Tampa Bay - LP: J. Lueke||5||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: R. Dickey||7|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson||6||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: P. Strop||4|
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||4||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: S. Marcum||3|
|Philadelphia - LP: C. Hamels||1||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: A. Sanabia||5|
|Minnesota - LP: K. Correia||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||5|
|Oakland - WP: B. Colon||9||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: J. Lindblom||2|
|Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw||3||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo||1|
|Boston - LP: J. Lester||4||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - WP: D. Axelrod||6|
|Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie||5||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: D. Keuchel||6|
|Arizona - WP: P. Corbin||5||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: J. Garland||1|
|St. Louis - LP: S. Miller||2||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: J. Marquis||4|
|Washington - LP: Z. Duke||0||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong||8|