Reeve on 2022 Lynx: ‘I was not able to get through to this group’

Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/TNS
·4 min read

Cheryl Reeve made a guarantee Monday.

It came the day after the regular season ended with a 90-83 loss in Connecticut that kept the Lynx out of the playoffs for the first time since 2010. And while it didn't carry specifics in terms of players who will come or go, this was clear:

The 2023 Lynx will be a team that buys in, that is ready to work, with a roster that wants to play for each other.

"I don't know how many games we're going to win," said Reeve, the team's coach and general manager. "But my experience is that when you have a team that believes in the process, and be in it, working hard and giving everything you have and respecting your teammates, wins and losses take care of themselves.

"This was an outlier year in regards to those things not being at the core of who we were. We will be a different team next year. For sure. Guaranteed."

Because Reeve wanted to surround retiring center Sylvia Fowles with veterans capable of winning, she signed Layshia Clarendon and Angel McCoughtry. But injury issues forced the team to part ways with both just as the season was about to start.

What followed was a 3-13 start from which the Lynx never recovered.

There were a lot of contributing factors. Napheesa Collier wasn't available until late following the birth of her daughter in May. The team, without Clarendon, struggled to find consistent point guard play.

But the biggest problem, the thing that had Reeve questioning herself as a coach, was that she was never able to get the team to commit to working hard enough to consistently win.

Reeve said the team had a similar problem in 2021, but the presence of Collier and Clarendon's steady play masked that. But this summer, the losing exposed the problem.

"We've been the same team for two years," Reeve said. "A little more averse to working hard, plain and simple. They want less, not more. They want less drills, not more. It was hard for me to convince them that what we were doing wasn't good enough. I tried to get on 'em. I tried yelling at them. I tried to leave 'em alone. I was not able to get through to this group. With this team, I had to accept less."

That will change.

That is, assuming one thing that doesn't change is Reeve, whose contract is up. She said she has been in contact with outgoing owner Glen Taylor, but hasn't spoken to incoming owners Marc Lore or Alex Rodriguez about her future with the team. She said she expects Taylor to work as a liaison on the issue.

"Ownership has been good to me," she said. "Ownership believes in me, ownership is in this with me. I think that's really important. I've made a life here. But it doesn't mean it will last a lifetime. If ownership thinks I'm the right person to lead us, I'll have to determine whether I'm up for the challenge."

The roster will change. Fowles is retired. Collier — who said she will not play overseas this season as she works herself back to top condition — will assume Fowles' leadership position.

The Lynx only have a handful of players under contract for next year: Collier, Jessica Shepard, Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa. Right now the team has two first-round picks in the 2023 draft, one from Las Vegas (which will be 12th) and their own, which will be no lower than fourth. The team will likely look towards youth, but will also have some money to spend in free agency. There is a possibility the Lynx will look at improving the team via trade.

It will be difficult to solve the point guard situation, given the paucity of top-tier players; Reeve likened it to quarterbacks in football.

But Collier — who hasn't decided whether to try to play for the Reeve-coached USA Basketball team and the world championship this fall — will be back and stronger. And she embraces the idea of being the team's core leader.

"I'm sad Syl's gone," she said. "I wish she would stay forever. But now I feel she's passed the torch down, and I definitely want to do it justice."

McBride, who admitted she was worn down mentally and physically by two years of playing year 'round, said Monday she will not miss anything Lynx-related next year. That would suggest less time spent playing overseas.

But Reeve's most pressing issue is building a team that wants to work, starting with better defense and fewer turnovers, which she said was ultimately the demise of the team.

"The things that not very good teams do, we did," she said. "This team was resistant to being pushed towards being better."

And that will change. "I feel very challenged to keep this franchise a winning franchise," Reeve said. "I think that's possible. I think it's possible to create a new era."