Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with Tulsa Shock assistant coach Stacey Lovelace, who was hired this month to replace Kathy McConnell-Miller. Lovelace, 38, played on the Storm’s inaugural team in 2000.
Seattle Times: You’re reunited with Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg, your former coach as a player for Seattle in 2000-01. Is it like old times?
Lovelace: Klopp and I were talking about that at shoot-around (Friday). This place (KeyArena) brings back memories. Me and Quacy (Barnes) at the end of the bench having a ball, man.
Q: True, you were a hot mess at times.
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Lovelace: Hey, we were young. We had some really interesting personalities. We were an expansion team. LJ (Lauren Jackson) was a rookie, it was all of these young players and we were just trying to find our way. The support has always been here and it was rough those first couple of years. At that point, though, you’re not looking 14 years down the line. Nobody knew if the WNBA was going to last for 17 years, so it’s fun to come back here.
Q: You’re jumping into this position three games into the season, what’s that like?
Lovelace: I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and I haven’t coached in the WNBA, and Kathy was amazing. She had been with the team for three years and then the season was starting — very rarely are you making changes to your staff at that point. But I was probably the only one who could up and leave my jobs and say, ‘I’ll do it!’
Q: What were you doing?
Lovelace: I had a whole lot of jobs. I was doing real estate, coaching AAU and had my own company doing personal training while working on my masters in sports management at the University of Michigan. But this is an amazing opportunity and I’m so grateful Klopp thought of me.
Q: You stopped playing in the WNBA in 2008 and overseas in 2010, so were you working your way to this?
Lovelace:When I first retired, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I just went back to school. I think I’m just building my resume. I’m making myself a valuable prospect to whoever it may be.
Q: You mentioned playing with Lauren her rookie season. What’s it like to coach touted rookie Skylar Diggins?
Lovelace: I usually watch the (NCAA) Final Four, so I was familiar with Skylar and she’s a good kid. She’s in a much more difficult situation than the other two (Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne) because she is a point guard. She has to understand every position. It’s not just, ‘OK, we’re going to run this play and you come off and finish.’ She’s got a bigger leap to make than any of the others. And she’s going to be fine, it’s just a different game. It’s not college anymore. These are pros. They have been pros. Their whole objective is to take away what you like to do, and can most of the time do it. In college, that was the plan but nobody could actually stop her. But she’s going to be fine.