Q+A: Sheryl Swoopes
The WNBA great talks about her recent move to the college sidelines.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
Sheryl Swoopes has accomplished things on the court that players can only dream of: big-time sneaker deal, multiple championships and a selection to the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time. With all that being said, Swoopes is far from done with building her legacy.
The Texas native recently traded in her sneakers for a spot on the sidelines as Loyola University’s new head coach. Swoopes sat down with SLAMonline to discuss her coaching background, why she chose Loyola and more.
SLAM: You just accepted the head coaching position at Loyola University Chicago. What made this program stand out to you?
Sheryl Swoopes: I knew I was in a place in my life where I was ready to start another career. Not a job—a career. My passion for the game now isn’t to be playing, but to be on the other side of the whistle and to be teaching and coaching. I believe once you become a coach you become a coach and a teacher. My passion has always been with helping kids and young ladies. I am finally in a position where I can influence someone’s life, and push their life in a positive direction. I think that’s what god put me on this earth for. Playing basketball was absolutely wonderful, and it did some great things to and for me. I believe that was just the platform I was going to use for the bigger picture, which is where I am now leading a program.
SLAM: You got your first bit of coaching experience as an assistant at Mercer Island in 2010, and then you went on to serve as a television analyst for Texas Tech during the ’12-13 season. How did those experiences help to push you in the direction you are going now?
SS: Being an assistant at Mercer Island was something I really enjoyed yet still a very small sample of what coaching would be like. Nonetheless it did show me what it was going to be like on the coaching side. It helped me see what I want to teach the players—which ties into the Loyola mission statement—is that what I want to teach them is bigger than basketball it’s about life. I want to prepare these players for each game and further down the line for the rest of their lives.
Commentating was a different experience. You have a whole new perspective and view when you are no longer playing. Commentating helped me see that I was ready to move on to a new journey which is coaching.
SLAM: Loyola went to the conference championship last season and returns its leading scorers. How important was it that you came into a situation where there were pieces in place?
SS: I do feel like I am coming into a situation where I am not having to start over. I do have two really good pieces in Seimone and Taylor. We are also moving to a new conference in the Missouri Valley from the Horizon League makes this next year new for all of us. Many of the coaches in the conference may have heard of the players, but they haven’t seen them play. There is a lot of potential in Seimone and Taylor, but I also have some really good role players as well.
SLAM: How have you prepared in regards to teaching the players?
SS: There is no book I can take home and read at night titled, “This is how you run a successful program.” Every day will be a new learning experience, which I will embrace. It will be important for me to go out and recruit the type of players that I want for this program that fit the type of style that I want to play.
I have never been in this position before, but I do feel like I am very capable of leading this team and program. It’s important for me to surround myself with a good team of coaches as well. Assistants that have the same type of passion and vision that I have.
SLAM: This is a whole new dynamic of playing, especially when dealing with player personalities and the media. How will you go about maximizing the talent around you and handling press?
SS: I have let them know that we have issues to address that aren’t just about basketball. I always tell them that they have to prepare themselves mentally to get ready to play. The physical ability there, I know they will be ready to compete on that level. A time will come though that you will have to stop and look yourself in the mirror and say, How am I helping this team and how am I hurting this team, and what can I do to be an asset to the team? I have had team meetings and explained to many the expectations just got higher. I think they are ready for that challenge.
SLAM: Your team will be thrown into the fire early with the recent announcement that you will be playing in the pre-season NIT Tournament. Are you excited to have the chance to assess your team’s talent so early in the season against elite competition?
SS: Absolutely. I think another thing that will help us this year is that we will be playing in a European tour in August. This will give me a chance to assess the talent, and also will be a great chance for me to get some experience under my belt and go into the NIT. This is a great opportunity for the university and the girls. They will get a chance to play against some of the best in the world.