Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was talking about her team’s resilience after practice this week, its ability to handle adversity.
“You saw it when we were down in games, when I’m losing my mind about all that’s happening wrong,” she said. “They don’t hear me. They find a way to just keep playing.”
She was being too modest.
After Reeve led the team to a fourth-place finish and a playoff bye in the 22-game season in the bubble in Bradenton, Fla. despite numerous obstacles, Reeve was named the coach of the year by the WNBA Thursday.
And the 5-5 rookie point guard who did so much to help the Lynx get to 14 wins was honored, too. Crystal Dangerfield was named Rookie of the Year, becoming the first player not taken in the first round of the draft to win the honor.
It also gave the Lynx back-to-back Rookies of the Year, as Napheesa Collier won it in 2019. The Lynx have now won the award five times. This is Reeve’s third such award, having won in 2011 and 2016.
“It’s just a tremendous honor,” Reeve said. “We were fortunate we had a group here willing to do the things the way we knew you have to do them to be successful. They bought into it, and I’m very fortunate.”
Reeve got 25 of 47 votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer (17 votes) finished second.
Dangerfield got 44 of 47 votes, with Chennedy Carter getting two and Satou Sabally getting one.
Not expected to get a lot of playing time after being taken 16th overall in the second round out of Connecticut, Dangerfield took advantage of injuries to get on the court, and used her play to stay there. She led the team in scoring (16.2), shot 47.1% overall and 92.2% from the free-throw line. She was 11th in the league in scoring and scored in double figures in 19 of 21 games.
“It wasn’t my goal to come in and win this,” Dangerfield said. “I wanted to win games. I guess my play stood out.”
Dangerfield played with a fearless style that belied her small stature. With a killer hesitation move and a polished floater, she was able to finish at the basket. With a smooth jumper she was good at the midrange and could also hit the three. She shot 66.6% on shots inside of 5 feet, having just four of 65 shots blocked.
But her leadership really came through in crunch time. In the fourth quarter. She finished second in the league in fourth-quarter scoring (6.5 points), and her shooting percentage jumped to 58.3% in the final quarter.
“That comes from back in college,: she said. “Coach [Geno] Auriemma always said you can’t wait for things to happen, you have to make them happen.”
“She’s been super aggressive,” said Collier, her former teammate at Connecticut. “And she’s been so great for our team. Her heart is so big, just the way she plays, just flying her body around. I always knew Crystal had that in her. You could see it at UConn. But she’s really embraced that role on the Lynx. … It’s just the beginning for her.”
Reeve coached a team that proved resourceful. Seven players led the team in scoring in the 22 games, and six players scored at least 25 points in a game, a league record. She is the third coach in league history to win the award three times.