The hardest part was picking a name.
Storm forward Alysha Clark transitioned to coaching this WNBA offseason as a first-time assistant at Middle Tennessee State. A two-time Sun Belt Conference player of the year for Blue Raiders coach Rick Insell, Clark knew what was expected of the team. And could easily relate as a recent graduate (2010).
But how to differentiate the coach-player role took time.
“They were calling me Coach Clark and that made me feel super old,” said Clark, 26, who settled on Coach AC and ignores any “Hey, girl!” greetings.
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Insell has Clark dabbling in every role within the program to help prepare her to become a head coach. Senior forward Ebony Rowe, the Conference USA player of the year who’s an undersized post like Clark, said she relished having the alum on staff because of her WNBA experience.
Clark played the past two seasons for the Storm but will have to work to secure a roster spot when Storm training camp opens April 27.
“I’m pretty impressed at my self-discipline this offseason,” said Clark, who spent past WNBA offseasons playing in Israel. “I feel like my game has improved, but I’m nervous to get back because I haven’t played organized ball. Not being in it for so long, I don’t want to lose anything.”
MTSU’s trip to Seattle for the opening round of the NCAA tournament is a treat for Clark. She had dinner with Storm owners on Friday and told the team about the loyal fan base.
“I told them to hashtag #StormCrazies,” Clark said of letting fans know via social media her team is headed to Seattle. “(Players) were like: ‘Oh, my god! They’re tweeting us back. That’s so cool.’ ”
Cal State Northridge coach Jason Flowers didn’t deny he’s happy the year isn’t 2015. Next year, NCAA tournament rules will change to the top 16 teams being host sites for the opening two rounds.
The NCAA also lifted a ban on South Carolina and Mississippi from hosting due to flying confederate flags on government buildings. So, if it were 2015, top-seeded South Carolina would host and No. 16 seed CSUN would’ve made the cross-country trip.
Instead, CSUN’s biggest travel concern was its bus breaking down and waiting 10 minutes for another mode of transportation Saturday. The players divided between minivans and the cheerleader bus to make it to practice at Alaska Airlines Arena.
MTSU assistant coach Mariska Harris, who is due to give birth to her first child in July, is bedridden.
Insell brought Tim Fleming as a fill-in. Fleming, who’s retired, worked with Insell for 20 years at Shelbyville Central High in Tennessee.
Ticket sales are starting to tip toward an advantage for ninth-seeded Oregon State.
The Beavers’ campus is a four-hour drive from Seattle. OSU was 14-1 at Gill Coliseum this season.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067