Basketball News

Teresa Weatherspoon's Vision of the Chicago Sky and Her Legacy

It's been a few weeks since the Chicago Sky announced in October that Teresa Weatherspoon would take over as the franchise's head coach, and the Hall of Famer is still considering it. He hasn't officially made a big move, or found a place to live, but when we caught up with him over the phone, it's clear that he's already started preparing, at least mentally, for the upcoming season. He talked to the coaches who helped him grow, and he has been thinking a lot about “the most important thing,” which is how he can put his players in a position to succeed.

Weatherspoon's return to the W, this time as a coach, is historic: he was one of the original members of the New York Liberty when the W began playing in '97 and watched the League, and the game, grow and evolve throughout his tenure. career, which included five All-Star appearances and winning the Defensive Freshman of the Year award. To call him a basketball legend wouldn't do his career justice—Weatherspoon is a pioneer, an inspiration, a legend.

“First of all, it's a full circle,” he said of W's training. “I had the opportunity to play in New York and, as a player, start something for a professional coach. [women’s basketball] league in America. But coming back to coach in this League means a lot to me because it still helps the League to grow. I have had the opportunity to do amazing things in between just to be well prepared for any situation or situations that may arise. Arm yourself on the way.”

Those “in-betweens” that Weatherspoon talks about are all the coaching jobs he's had over the past decade—at nearly every level of the game—including being the head coach at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech, and then in the NBA, where he served as a development coach. players before moving up to assistant coach with the New Orleans Pelicans. For him, the decision to join Sky was easy: they knew he was the perfect person for the job. Time. “They believed in me. They fought for me. They trusted me to lead this organization. For me, that was enough.”

Weatherspoon was tasked with restoring the sky to its glory. After winning its first-ever WNBA championship in 2021, the franchise has not advanced past the semifinals in the past two seasons. Although 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper is now in Phoenix, they have exciting new additions including Diamond DeShields and Chennedy Carter. But one thing their new coach has made clear is that he will not call this upcoming season a rebuilding year. That is not the framework in which Weatherspoon operates. He has other plans. Big plans.

SLAM: As you prepare for next season, what do you think the transition will be like, from coaching in the NBA to taking over as coach at the W? What is your method?

Teresa Weatherspoon: That's right [about] know who you are training [and] know your employees. I think when you play game time, they always tell you to know your staff. That's what it is to me. Yes, basketball. Yes, I see that you are male and female. But at the end of the day, it's all about knowing your employees and what suits your employees—what's best for your employees so they can be the best versions of themselves.

SLAM: It's been a few years since the sky won the chip. What do you think it will take to get the team back to that level?

TW: First of all, they did a great job pushing for the playoffs, didn't they? That says a lot about who they are, the fight in them, the determination in them. They have goals and they want them…it's just a matter of me going in and putting my stamp on things of how I see things for them and maintaining success. We don't want to succeed [just] year, we want to support success, and that will be our attitude. That will be our way of doing it… They are talented, they are gifted, they have all that. And it's a matter of putting the pieces together in the puzzle and making it work.

SLAM: When you got the head coaching gig, did you connect with the players right from the start?

TW: In fact, I texted them this morning just to say, Hello, have a nice daybecause I want them to know that [they’re being] he thought. I'm not just a coach who will just train and forget about you, no. I want to know how you are doing. I want to know how your family is doing. i am different. I look at things differently because I was once a player and I knew what was important me as a player. So, I want to bring the same thing to them because I want to be an open, honest and transparent coach.

SLAM: Would you describe yourself as a people person?

TW: I've always wanted to be. Not for recognition, but to show that I care. And in that care, especially being a great coach, I will push buttons that you never thought could be pushed. I will push them because as a coach, if I rub you, I am doing my job.

SLAM: Having coached at every level and now at the highest level—the NBA and, soon, the WNBA—what advice would you give to aspiring coaches who want to get to where you are?

TW: This is crazy [because] I recently gave this message at a speaking engagement I had and talked about the table. When you talk about the table, your table…It's a table you made for yourself, and all the experiences you have are at your table…I want people to break bread with me at my table because I've experienced a lot. things to equip me to get to where I am now. And it's my job—whether it's difficult, or difficult, or painful—it's my job to go through it to make sure that every seat at my table is available so that everyone can find solutions. Because at the end of the day, that's going to be the most important thing: What is your life doing to impact another life?

SLAM: When did you come to that—that you're an actor, and it's your job to help others?

TW: As you get older, you know you have to bring something to the table—you know you have to bring something to make someone trust you and know you're important. Especially when playing a game, people should know, What is your best skill? What do you bring to this team? And why would you help this team succeed?…That question [has] it happened to me all my life, so make my table…Now, this table should help someone else…There is no way for me to go through something, and in the table there is no solution for what I went through. It's just sitting there. It's not always, you have to keep walking to find a solution…And that's all I've ever wanted. If there's something you don't like or don't see coming from me and it's what you want, tell me. I will find a solution. I will fight my butt to find a solution, because I always want to be able to help the next person.

SLAM: You had such a wonderful acting career. As you enter this new chapter, how would you describe your legacy so far?

TW: I believe that is still being written. I believe that as long as you continue to fight, to succeed, that it will continue to be written, because a lot, I believe, will come from me. God has a lot in store for me. So, I have to keep moving that way, knowing that things are not over yet. There are many more things to come.

Photos via Getty Images.

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