This was not something Rebekkah Brunson thought a lot about. Coach? That was something Brunson said she would never do.
She and Cheryl Reeve hadn’t even discussed it in passing in the near decade they spent together, winning four WNBA titles with the Lynx.
But more than a year after Brunson’s last WNBA game, Reeve called about an assistant coach opening. And Brunson listened.
Yes, she said.
Brunson, the only WNBA player with five titles and the league’s all-time leading rebounder, was introduced as a Lynx assistant in a news conference in the lobby of the Target Center on Tuesday. It was actually more of a hiring/Brunson official retirement announcement twofer, with Brunson and Reeve talking both about Brunson’s great career and the challenge about to come.
“There are so many things that I’m doing right now,’’ said Brunson.
She and her wife, Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson, have a son, Graham, and a food truck/catering business. Brunson also does Wolves analysis on Fox Sports North.
“But I love the game, and I want to continue to give as much as I can to this organization, to this city.”
That said, it did take more than a year for Brunson to come to terms with the idea she wouldn’t play again. Her 15th season ended on Aug. 8, 2018, when she took an elbow from Tiffany Hayes, breaking her nose. She was diagnosed with a concussion, the symptoms of which lingered. But even with that, her family, her growing business and the job as an analyst didn’t completely fill the void of not playing — which may explain why it took a year-plus to make retirement official. But when Reeve called about coaching, Brunson stopped thinking like a player. She knew, she said, this was where her life needed to go. It was the right trajectory.
“One of the things that was really important to me was not cheating the game,” Brunson said. “If I’m going to be out there I’m going to give it everything I have. … As time progressed, I realized that I don’t know if I had the drive to be able to give the game 100 percent of my body, of my emotion. And that’s when I decided I wasn’t just going to do it because I wanted to play. If I was going to cheat the game, even a little bit, I wasn’t going to do it anymore.’’
But coaching? Brunson sounded thrilled by the challenge. Always a great — and blunt — leader as a player, she will now be delivering her message as a coach, which she admitted might be harder.
“Right now the only goal is what can I pull out of these women that will allow them to be successful?’’ Brunson said. “I’m not looking ahead to what’s coming. Or I’m not trying to play for the future. It’s about this team, this year.”
So, at least for now, she’s not thinking about being a head coach, though she strongly supports Reeve’s decision to go with an all-female staff with the idea of creating more qualified candidates for future head-coaching openings.
Reeve said there was a lot of interest in the opening. But she had Brunson in mind, and was going to wait for her answer before attacking that growing list of candidates. She didn’t know if Brunson would take her up on it, but knew her former player would be intrigued.
“People need space and time to get to big decisions about retirement, let alone big decisions about going into coaching,” Reeve said. “Our mind-set was that when Rebekkah was ready, she would make an announcement.”
At some point in the upcoming season her No. 32 jersey will be hoisted to the rafters, next to former teammate Lindsay Whalen and the four title banners.
But that’s not her focus. It’s on coaching, not playing.
“I want to be dedicated to these players,” Brunson said. “Make sure I’m giving myself to them.”