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“It Was Very Surreal”: Cheryl Reeve Named Head Coach of USA Basketball’s Women’s National Team

The Minnesota Lynx head coach was formally introduced Wednesday morning in Minneapolis.

Cheryl Reeve, adorned in a blaze red pantsuit emblematic of not only her newest endeavor but also her passion for the game of basketball, descended the Target Center stairs. Her position was an unfamiliar one and definitely not one she ever imagined being in while manning the sidelines at Indiana State University in the mid-1990s, barking out plays during her first-ever head coaching gig at the ripe old age of 28.

But, with four WNBA championships, three WNBA Coach of the Year awards, two World Cup titles, two Olympic gold medals, and one Hall of Fame coaching career under her belt, Reeve left USA Basketball with little choice.

On Wednesday morning in frigid downtown Minneapolis, USA Basketball formally introduced Reeve as the next head coach for the Women’s National Team, a distinction previously held by legends such as Geno Auriemma, Dawn Staley, Anne Donovan, and Tara VanDerveer.

“It was very surreal. You feel honored, you feel humbled, you feel grateful, and you feel excited,” Reeve said of the moment she got the call from Women’s National Team Director Briana Weiss offering her the position. “I’m honored to be able to be a part of one of the greatest sports dynasties ever … I feel so excited to get started. I can’t wait. We have a tremendous amount of talent in the WNBA, in the college ranks, if you’re watching. There’s a lot of talent … [This is a] really exciting opportunity and I just feel incredibly blessed to be able to work with the best athletes in the world.”

Reeve takes over the reins for the US Women’s Team from Staley, a 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who helped lead the women’s team to their seventh-straight gold medal during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Once Staley announced that she would be stepping down shortly after departing the podium this past summer, Reeve was vocal in suggesting that Team USA’s next head coach should come from the ranks of the WNBA, especially as all of the women who played on the most recent iteration of the team also played in the league.

“My dad didn’t raise a dummy. If Dawn didn’t want to do it anymore, I wanted to make sure I had a shot at it,” Reeve said jokingly. “Dawn is a tremendous mentor to so many people. It’s strange for me because I coached Dawn and then I worked for Dawn. Now Dawn’s somebody that’s kind of put me in this situation to take the reins. She’ll be a tremendous resource and she let me know that. That she’s not far away.”

Reeve was deeply reflective during her nearly 25-minute press conference, thanking everyone — family, friends, colleagues, and anyone who works or has worked for the Lynx and Wolves, among others — for helping her along her road to success. However, the individuals she spoke extensively on were her athletes, current and former.

“It’s not lost on me that I’m sitting here because of some really great players that we’ve had. Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Napheesa Collier. Are you kidding me?” she said. “That’s not lost on me that the opportunity I was given to be able to be here with the Lynx at this time, for the last decade, positioned me to be able to be part of this great opportunity.”

Reeve will make her head coaching debut with the Women’s National Team during the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournament that runs from February 10-13, 2022, where they will face off against Puerto Rico, Belgium, and Russia. Her assistant coaching staff and roster will be officially announced at a later date.

Coaching at the Olympic level is not the same as coaching in the WNBA as Reeve, who has served as an assistant coach with USA Basketball since 2014, is fully aware. The game is more wide-open. There’s more ball movement and 3-pointers to go along with fewer traditional frontcourt athletes making for a faster pace The physicality, competitiveness, and overall level of play are also next level.

“The challenge each and every time you step on the floor, you’re playing against the world’s best. You’ve got to be ready for that. That’s a whole other level of things to prepare for,” Reeve told Canis Hoopus.

However, amongst the preparation and the flurry of Olympic play, it’s important not to lose one’s ideals as well as the identity of Team USA basketball, according to Reeve.

“I think the U.S. is good at what we do and you don’t want to change your style too much,” she said.

When asked if she has taken any time to let reality sink in or even, God-forbid, celebrate, her answer was representative of a pure distillation of the ethos of Cheryl Reeve.

“That’s not really my style. I become task-oriented when these things happen,” she said with a laugh. “It’s information I’ve had to hold for quite a while. I’ve been asking my family to hold for quite a while. So, managing that. My son, not so great. He blurted it out at the Bahamas to [KFAN’s Justin Gaard], actually. That was quite funny. It’s surreal. You have all the emotions and then you kinda go okay, I want to start working on this, I want to get my playbook together.”

The full press conference introducing Reeve as the new Women’s National Team head coach can be viewed below: