From The Top Down, Lynx Culture Is Built For Lasting Success

Spend any time around the Lynx and the topic of culture will inevitably come up. The Lynx are clearly a group of winners—their four championships attest to that—but there’s something else about this team that has allowed it to maintain such a remarkable consistency over the last seven years. The core group of starters have remained the same since Sylvia Fowles joined the team in 2015, and the Lynx have managed to seamlessly incorporate a rotating cast of backups without sacrificing their chemistry on and off the court.

The Lynx culture starts from the top. Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and Rebekkah Brunson have spent the better part of the last decade cultivating a locker room build upon genuine support and love. Next time a Lynx backup scores while the starters are resting, look at the Lynx bench. Every bucket, every defensive stop, you’re guaranteed to see the Lynx’s starting five on their feet cheering on their teammates.

The Lynx are close without being exclusive. Whether you’re a star joining the team, or a newly-drafted rookie, the Lynx veterans go out of their way to make their teammates feel at home.

“It’s genuine love. Everybody looks out for each other here, we’re all like sisters. It’s definitely a sisterhood here with (Cheryl) Reeve being the grandmother,” Fowles said. “We take care of each other and we look out for each other.”

“It’s easy for people to come in and feel comfortable because it is a sisterhood, it’s not something that we’ve made up. You can actually feel it, you can actually see it,” said Augustus.

The culture of the Lynx is a selling point for the franchise when attracting free agents, but at the end of the day, players come to Minnesota because they want to play with the Lynx’s core.

“[They] developed a reputation that they’re not only tremendous players, but tremendous people, and it’s real, it’s authentic, and [players] want to be their teammates,” Reeve said. “It’s that simple. Winning, the group wins, maybe if we weren’t winning we’re just nice people, but that’s not the case.”

But there’s more to the Lynx than the players just liking each other. On winning teams, it can be difficult for incoming veterans to find their place. They don’t want to step on toes or take away from what has been working, they want to stay in their lane. This can fracture a locker room. But Reeve is clear with her new additions that she doesn’t want them holding back. She instills in them a sense of purpose, and an understanding that the reason they are on the team is because Minnesota needs what they have to offer. Reeve doesn’t sign players who can’t help the team, and she tells the truth when selling the Lynx to free agents. The importance of this credibility cannot be understated.

“When we do come in and we get here, everything she says about the organization is what it is, and that’s important to have that relationship off the bat,” Lynetta Kizer said.

Kizer knows what the Lynx need from her—they want her to shoot and play good defense. With that knowledge comes confidence, even though it isn’t easy to play behind a group of perineal All Stars.

“It can be a little nerve wracking coming on the court behind them and knowing that if you make a mistake probably they’re going to have to come back in the game,” Kizer said. “It’s a tighter rope on the second string, but they give us all the confidence in the world. That’s been day one since I got in here, that’s no pressure, just stay the course and continue to learn.”

Danielle Robinson is another veteran addition who has an opportunity to make a big impact for the Lynx this year. Robinson had a down last year, which wasn’t helped by the fact that she wasn’t exactly sure what her previous team, the Phoenix Mercury, needed from her. Here, she just has one job—be herself. That’s what Reeve tells new additions to the team, and she means it.

“There’s a lot to sell here, but the number one selling point is our players, to be able to play with them and for them to be able to be themselves, the player coming in, that’s really important to us,” Reeve said. “They don’t have to be something other than themselves and that’s a tough adjustment. It seems really simple, they’re kinda going ‘Well there must be more that I have to do than that,’ ‘Nope, just be yourself. That’s why you’re here, that’s why we selected you.’”

“It’s really nice. It feels good, I feel like a pressure has been lifted off of me,” Robinson said. “To have that freedom here, even sometimes I get sped up a little and I turn the ball over and coach Reeve is like ‘That’s OK, you’re making an aggressive mistake,’ it’s nice to have that leadership behind me and know that I’m OK to be myself and that if mistakes come with it here and there—not a lot—but here and there, she’s OK with it.”

With a core group like the Lynx have, plus the steady leadership of Reeve, the team has developed a structure that keeps the big things running and allows the team to key in on the small details that could be the difference between winning a championship and exiting the playoffs empty handed.

“Every single thing we do has a purpose,” Robinson said. “From the top to the bottom of the organization it’s running like a well-oiled machine.”

The Lynx are here for one another, and here to support each other, but they’re also here to win championships. The love the team shares for one another should not be interpreted as a lack of competitiveness—every person on the Lynx wants to win everything, every game, every drill, every scrimmage, but they recognize the best way to win is together.

“What makes our team so special is you have a group of young women with the same mindset and the same goal,” Fowles said. “We push egos to the side, we push pride to the side, and we just come out here and we play.”

“Watching it from afar and playing against them, you don’t see what goes into it,” Robinson said. “Then you get here and you realize why they’re champions.”