Maya Moore is taking time to decompress after one of the most difficult WNBA seasons of her career.
It’s not often the four-time WNBA champion gets the opportunity to settle into a “routine of rest,” as she calls it. Between overseas seasons, the WNBA and USA Basketball, Moore is constantly on the move.
Alongside fellow future Hall of Famers Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson, Moore has led the Minnesota Lynx to an unprecedented run of success. She has reached the Finals six times over her eight-year WNBA career.
But that chapter could be coming to a close. After Minnesota lost in the first round this year, head coach Cheryl Reeve said that no player is off-limits when it comes to trade discussions. That includes the 29-year-old Moore, who’s still in the prime of her career and one of the top players in the world.
When we caught up with Moore last week, she was still in a mode of reflection and appreciation. She maintains that last season was a success because of the adversity the Lynx were able to overcome. Safe to say, the 2019 WNBA season is the least of her worries right now.
In addition to getting some much-needed rest this offseason, Moore is partnering with US Cellular on its “Most Valuable Coach” program, which honors impactful coaches from kindergarten all the way through the high school level.
Moore will have a hand in selecting the top-three coaches, who will be awarded school grants of $50,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. From now through October 8, people can vote among the 50 nominees at themostvaluablecoach.com.
SLAM: You, Seimone and Rebekkah could all potentially hit free agency this offseason. With Lindsay retired, is there a sense that this could be an end of an era?
Maya Moore: Well, I don’t know if that’s what I would necessarily focus on. I think there’s been so much to celebrate. This year obviously didn’t go as hoped, as what we’ve usually produced. I’m just really in an appreciative mode. I think we kind of rush to the next thing so much in our day and age.
I’m, of course, sad to see one of the best to ever play our game move on and retire and start a new chapter. I’m really just grateful that we’ve had so much success. Even this year, the success that we had was… the challenges that we faced and the way we stuck together was a success.
Just because you don’t win a championship doesn’t mean there’s not things to celebrate and how many things we overcame and the relationships that you’ll always have. Sometimes when you hit adversity after being at the top, relationships can be challenged and break up and things aren’t the same. I think one of proudest things that I can say is with this past season’s adversity: The relationships that we have, they’re still really good. We have a lot of respect for each other. So I’m proud of that.
SLAM: Coach Reeve said no player is untouchable in trade discussions this offseason. Was that surprising to hear?
MM: Honestly, I wasn’t thinking too much ahead. One of the things that I think helps me is staying present in the moment and just trying to squeeze the life out of every day that we’ve had. Kind of letting our coaches set the vision and think about the future, and we just stay locked-in on the moment.
That’s where I was, and I still am kind of in that mode. It’s only been a few weeks, not even a month, since the season has ended, so I’m still kind of just reflecting and transitioning away from the season being over.
We have a long offseason. It’s kind of part of our culture—once the season is over, you just jump to the next season. Cheryl has to come out and start to set the tone, and so that’s what she did. We’ll see what happens in the future.
SLAM: When it comes to decision-making in your career, do you seek advice from players who have gone through similar situations?
MM: Fortunately, I haven’t had to be in a huge decision-making place when it comes to my WNBA career. I’ve been very committed to the Lynx, and we’ve had such a great group that have been committed to each other. We made history with how committed the four of us were to each other over this run. So that hasn’t been too difficult.
I absolutely reach out to people when it comes to advice if I feel like others can offer advice. People who have been in the league longer than I have, coaches, we all know that we’re available to each other. It’s a really sweet thing to know I’ve got support there.
I definitely am open to the wisdom of others, but I’m also very aware and thoughtful and have a good understanding of my current situation and how the league works. I’ve learned a lot from Cheryl over the years about what it takes to put together successful teams. I’m well-informed and have what I need.
SLAM: You’ve won multiple times on every level. Where are you finding motivation nowadays?
MM: I think to do anything great, you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. You want to be motivated to be better. I’m motivated by my teammates. I’m motivated by my coaches and our fans and our owner and people that enjoy the game.
You definitely have to have meaning in what you’re doing and finding purpose in what you’re doing. As long as I feel like I’m doing what I’m being called to do, then I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.
SLAM: Can you tell me about the “Most Valuable Coach” initiative with US Cellular?
MM: Absolutely. It’s an opportunity for people to go online and vote at themostvaluablecoach.com for the top-50 coaches. […] They’re trying to get it down to the top-15 coaches that are really leaders as far as trying to develop and pull out the good in all of their players. That’s from kindergarten all the way up to seniors in high school. Coaches that really care about and invest in their kids on the court, off the court, on the field, off the field, and really just take that extra step to raise up the next generation of players and people.
SLAM: Who are a few of your coaches who exemplified those qualities?
MM: I can think of my high school coach, Angie Hembree, who has been coaching for decades at the high school level. I won my first state championship with Coach Hembree. She was just one of those coaches that made you want to be better. She held you accountable for all the little details, especially when it came to being a great teammate. She really helped instill in me a mindset of being aware and mindful of my teammates and the impact that I’m having on my teammates. And also to be competitive, to be good and care about all the little details. And she was a hoot. She has the best personality and sense of humor and that always made things fun. She was hard on us, but we had fun.
And she cared about us as a person. She’d have us in her office and her door was always open. She was available to us. I love her to death, and she’s still one of my favorite coaches and somebody that will stay in my life for a lifetime.
I had a few AAU coaches with the Georgia Metros—my last AAU team I played for—that I can remember were helpful in helping me see myself as a mentor and encouraging me to take younger players under my wing and just look out for them. Just having that mindset to look out for other people and other players because I’m a leader. I remember learning that there.
SLAM: What qualities will you be looking for when it comes to selecting the final three coaches?
MM: That’s a great question. For me, when it comes to wanting to celebrate coaches in this Most Valuable Coach program are going to have to be people that just have a passion for other people and have a passion for their sport, but also are great vision-casters in casting a vision of the beauty of the game and of the games we play and why we play it.
I would look at the level of sacrifice. Look at what the coaches give of themselves to their team, to their players, to their community. Because I think that sacrifice should be honored and rewarded.
I’m open, too, to discovering peoples’ stories and discovering other reasons why we would want to celebrate these coaches. These coaches’ ability to connect with their players and bring out the best in their players and inspiring and sacrificing are all qualities I knew these top-three coaches are going to have.
Ryne Nelson is a Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @slaman10.
Photos via Getty.