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A Conversation With Lynx Assistant GM Clare Duwelius

Duwelius was kind enough to chat with Canis Hoopus about what her duties entail, what she looks for when scouting, and much more.

Minnesota Lynx Media Day Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The following was lightly edited for clarity.

Lucas Seehafer: I think most sports fans know conceptually that the assistant general manager helps the general manager, but don’t really know what the job entails exactly. So, I’ll ask you straight up: What does your job entail?

Clare Duwelius: The job honestly has been a bit of an evolution from the time I got here in 2014. I really started from the ground up doing a lot of the operational stuff. Obviously, that was my title at the time, I was Basketball Operations Coordinator then moved into a Basketball Operations Manager role, and then, ultimately, in the 2017 offseason, going into 2018, [General Manager Cheryl Reeve] elevated me to be Assistant GM.

I think that’s kind of the beautiful thing, too, about having this position in the WNBA because you have your hands on just a lot of different things by nature. I was always kind of like — even back in 2014 when I first started and [Roger Griffith] was GM — I had my hands in doing a lot of the admin stuff assisting him at the time. Drawing up contracts and learning the nuances and differences in between each contract I was helping put together. That was cool and it kind of piqued my interest even at the beginning, that this could be eventually how I ascend in this franchise.

It was really cool when Cheryl got elevated to GM and decided to bring me along too. To really jump in as much as I wanted to, she always empowered me to bite off as much as I could chew and get my hands as involved as I wanted to be with all of the stuff that we were doing in the offseason, in particular in terms of scouting and free agency and bouncing ideas back and forth. I think that’s kind of where it all started and she knew she could trust me just based on the time that we had been together.

LS: You mentioned Cheryl encouraging and empowering you in your position and that’s something you hear whenever you talk to anybody about her.

CD: Right.

LS: So, what’s it like to work with her, one of the greats in not only WNBA history but basketball history as well?

CD: You heard her say it about being named the USAB Women’s National Team head coach and how humbled she felt. That’s how I have felt from Day One. I’ve been super grateful and, anyone who’s willing to listen to me, I’ll go on and on about how amazing it’s been starting my career and learning from the best. Obviously, I’m going to be forever indebted to Cheryl and everything she’s taught me over the course of my career.

One of the greatest things about Cheryl is she doesn’t care who you are, she wants to hear your opinion and she wants to — she’s such an information gatherer that she wants to hear what everyone thinks or has to say about whatever the topic might be. She has such a great way of sorting out exactly all of the different opinions that she collects and then makes the best decision. I think that’s why she makes everyone feel so empowered because she wants to hear what everyone has to say. She makes you feel like what you’re saying has great value. I think that’s why I’ve had so much confidence learning from her. I have a seat at the table because she’s made me feel like I deserve to be there. I think that’s unique and not something that everyone can say their experience is on any particular staff. I feel very grateful for that.

LS: You mentioned that part of your job is helping out with scouting and free agency and drafting. How much do you think your past experience as a player helps form your opinion on players and how have you grown and developed in that area?

CD: The things I valued as a player are the things that I can identify and see when I’m out scouting. Obviously, we talk a lot about the culture here in Minnesota and those things are easy to identify and that’s why I love going to practices and shootarounds because you can see how seriously any player is taking the smallest drill or how they handle pre-practice stretching, how they interact with their teammates. If it’s a little drill that’s a competitive drill, how badly do they want to win that drill? That’s the player I’m attracted to because if they have a competitive spirit, they’re going to hold themselves to a high standard. How they treat their teammates and positive touches and how engaged they are and if they give their coaches eye contact and all those little things that, to me, equate to how much you value the moment and value each possession.

I think that’s something that I’ve really enjoyed as I’ve grown into this role and have the opportunity to go out and scout and everything. I really appreciate that and, obviously, come draft time, have those little nuanced experiences that I can share with the rest of the staff. We’ve got one of the best staffs in the league and they’re the pros on the Xs-and-Os. It’s a good, comprehensive evaluation of any prospects.

LS: Obviously, they’re different positions, frontcourt, and backcourt, but do you approach scouting them differently?

CD: I think the things that I’m keen on watching are really positionless. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in one through five. You can always be engaged, you can always be cheering on your teammates, you can be positive. I like the raw emotion, too. If something doesn’t go their way, I like to see them express themselves.

LS: The Lynx front office and coaching staff is not only predominantly female but also consists of members of the LGBTQ community as well as women of color. And, obviously, we all know how successful the franchise has been over the years. How important is it to have that degree of representation in a sports world that is primarily dominated by white, cis-gendered males?

CD: I think it’s incredible. Cheryl has always been at the forefront of this effort to prove just how valuable women are and how qualified women are. It’s a lack of opportunity, really, when women don’t get the opportunity to showcase their talents across the board. I think we’re starting to make a real effort to do that league-wide. I think it’s really come a long way. But I think there’s so many opportunities that still really aren’t being offered to really qualified women. Just being a member of a staff that puts that at the forefront — and we’re always cognizant of it, that’s a shared value among our whole staff. I’m always applauding Cheryl for putting her money where her mouth is and actually doing these things that she is oftentimes talking about with media members. It’s at the core of who she is. It’s what she really believes and what we all really believe. It means a lot to be on a staff where we’re representing that as well.

LS: Over the years, we’ve started to see more women get coaching opportunities in the NBA, just to use that as an example since we’re talking WNBA. Do you think once somebody is finally — I hate to say the term “brave” enough — but once somebody actually gives a woman the head coaching or front office job they deserve in the NBA, do you think the floodgates are going to start opening to more and more opportunities?

CD: I absolutely do. It will take that first step from somebody and it’s my personal belief that we’re past that time. Like, the time is now. We’re here, we’ve arrived, and it’s time for women to get the opportunities that they deserve. And, honestly, watch out once that first woman does because, to your point, the floodgates will open and everyone will have a lens into all the amazing things [they bring] and how qualified these women are. I just think it’s time to stop talking about it. It’s time.