With the Lynx’s win over the Sparks on Thursday night, Cheryl Reeve became the winningest female head coach in WNBA history, and the seventh-winningest coach of all time. This incredible accomplishment highlights Reeve’s incredible commitment to her players, the Lynx organization, and the league as a whole.
Reeve now has 206 wins as a head coach, passing her mentor and close friend, the late Anne Donovan, who helped Reeve get her start in the league, hiring her as an assistant coach for the Charlotte Sting in 2001.
Though the WNBA has a strong legacy of female head coaches, many of the longest-tenured coaches in the league are men. Reeve’s accomplishments, along with those of the women who came before her, help pave the way for future generations of female head coaches. Reeve takes great pride in her ability to be a mentor for other women going into coaching.
“I love being a coach but what I love even more is being a part of the change and providing opportunities and empowering those people,” she said. “Anybody that has ever played for us, like when this job came up with Lindsay (Whalen), Lindsay is the type of person who always wasn’t sure if she was going to be good enough to make our team or make the Olympic team. The first thing she said was ‘I don’t know coach, what do you think?’ She needed to hear me in that moment— ‘Absolutely you should want that moment and you’re going to be great at it.’ I just embrace that role. I know I had it, that’s what helped me, so I love to pay it forward.”
Reeve has high hopes for the future of female WNBA coaches. As the league’s profile, more and more former players are driven towards those roles.
“I think that the pool of talent is growing, the longer that the league has been around there’s a lot of former players that want to coach, so I think the pool of talent available in terms of the demographic of women, we are going to see more and more of that for sure,” said Reeve.
It’s a sad fact that as more money comes into the WNBA, entrenched prejudice may come with it. Team owners and hiring managers need to be proactive in making sure women get the opportunities they deserve to run teams, both as coaches and in the front office. People like Reeve pave the way not just in a figurative sense, but in the sense that they make hiring decisions that give other women opportunities.
“Women want to coach, and women are good coaches, so I think just making sure that we’re holding people accountable for the hiring process I think we’ll see that more and more,” said Reeve.