Rebekkah Brunson was there for every moment of Lynx glory during the franchises’ notorious four-championships run.
We saw Brunson ooze passion and doggedness while carving historic, personal and franchise achievements with the Lynx.
Now, after enjoying an illustrious, 15-season playing career, her relationship with the game of basketball is changing.
Brunson announced her retirement from the WNBA on Tuesday but coincidingly revealed that she won’t be leaving the league or the Lynx entirely. Instead, she’ll be joining Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve’s distinguished coaching staff as an assistant who’ll focus on scouting efforts and player development.
We already know Brunson is a beloved basketball figure in Minnesota, but what will allow her to lead the Lynx to success from the sidelines?
You could make the argument that no other player in the history of the WNBA knows how to win like Brunson and her accolades would back you up.
Brunson is the only player in the history of the league to win more than four championships and is also the all-time leader in postseason wins (57) and Finals games (34). Year after year, we saw her do whatever it took to secure wins — whether that meant diving after every loose ball, shutting down opponents’ best offensive weapon or mastering her special talent of rebounding.
Yet, there are plenty of examples of highly accomplished athletes who fail to find the same level of success once they transition to the coaching side of things. What makes Brunson different?
When Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner asked Reeve for a specific moment in Brunson’s career that has stuck with her at Tuesday’s press conference, Reeve pointed to Game 4 of the 2017 Finals.
In that game, the Lynx were tasked with winning in Los Angeles to force a Game 5 against the team that defeated them in the Finals the previous season. Brunson may not have been the team’s leading scorer or rebounder of the game, but in an incredibly intense scenario, she remained poised and served as a voice of reason — even for Reeve.
“(Brunson) has a really tremendous ability to identify what a situation really is and can put words on it,” Reeve said. “I always count on her very, very heavily as a captain in those moments to tell me exactly what she saw because I knew she’d be able to process it and get it out and express it far better than I ever could.”
You can’t quantify it but earning Reeve’s ultimate respect as a player has to be up there with Brunson’s greatest accomplishments.
Interpreter for Reeve
Along those lines, Brunson’s long history of being a WNBA player may allow her to get through to her players in a way that Reeve can’t.
Brunson received Reeve’s feedback and demands for nine seasons, and her success shows she knows how to handle it.
“Even if there’s a moment where (Reeve) can’t really relay (what she needs) to the player, I hope that I can be that voice,” Brunson said. “I don’t know what that looks like, but I really hope that I’m a coach that can translate and get the players to understand what’s really being said and understand what they need to hear to be their best possible selves.”
Brunson has battled with various teammates and learned how to effectively get through to them in dire situations. Reeve described Brunson as “an unbelievable communicator,” on Tuesday and believes that skill will lead to being a great teacher.
“That’s what I want to continue to do; I want to be that voice in their ear — somebody they can listen to and someone who understands the verbiage that they need to hear so that they accept it,” Brunson said. “Everybody is different; every teammate that you have accepts critiques differently, accepts advice differently. So you have to understand people, and I think I’m good at that.”
Ability To Analyze
Less than five months after Brunson played what would be her final WNBA game, Fox Sports North found a way to utilize her basketball smarts and innate communication skills.
Brunson was hired as a Timberwolves analyst for the station in Dec. 2018 and has held the position ever since. It was hard to imagine the Wolves’ FSN crew of Dave Benz, Jim Petersen and Gellner getting any stronger, but Brunson, once again, made the impossible possible.
Brunson has an appreciation for the details of a game that go beyond a state sheet and is able to adequately break them down for viewers whose knowledge of the game doesn’t compare to hers. That strength will go a long way when she’s asked to scout out opponents or future recruits in her new role.
“I love that she’s an analyst essentially for the NBA and how much basketball she’s watching,” Reeve said. “I told her that, ‘You’re sort of already doing some things. You’re preparing to talk about it. That’s kind of what you do as a scout.’”
Appreciation For The Small Moments
At Tuesday’s press conference, Gellner asked Brunson if a specific moment has popped into her head as she’s reflected on her 15-year career.
Instead of recalling her favorite celebratory moments, Brunson turned to the smaller moments in which the championships were built.
“The celebration was the icing on the cake, but it really was about everything and all the work that we put in — all of the things that we were able to pull out of each other,” Brunson said. “Those are small, little microcosms of the bigger picture that we go out and we give to you, but there are so many things that you don’t see that allowed us to be in those situations and be in those moments. Those are the things that I really hold on to. It’s a laugh here, a joke there, an angry look here, a fight there. All those things, like, you look back and you say, ‘You know what, in those moments, we were building something that was so great, something that no one could ever, ever take away from us.’”
For Brunson, competing isn’t solely about the end result. It’s about every moment of the journey — the daunting practices, the tough conversations that lead to breakthroughs and the creation of lifelong friendships — that allow you to one day hoist a trophy. For a Lynx team looking to eventually make its way back into championship contention, that might be the greatest attribute Coach Brunson can provide.