The Lynx have lost their most senior veteran to the New York Liberty – but fortunately for Minnesota, she won’t be preparing to face them come the start of the WNBA season.
The Liberty announced Thursday that it hired Taj McWilliams-Franklin, 42, as one of its assistant coaches for the 2013 season. McWilliams-Franklin spent the 2010 season with New York, and she also played for new Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer in Detroit in 2008 and 2009.
McWilliams-Franklin’s retirement hardly came as a surprise to the Lynx. The forward declined to play overseas this winter, instead assuming a spot on the coaching staff of the women’s team at Rice University in Houston. In February, coach Cheryl Reeve would not confirm that McWilliams-Franklin had officially retired, but she spoke at length about the team’s plans to move on to fill her spot. The Lynx went further in that direction when they signed center Janel McCarville on March 1.
“I am ecstatic about this opportunity with Coach Laimbeer and the New York Liberty,” McWilliams-Franklin said in a statement released by the Liberty. “I feel that coaching is a natural extension of what I have done during my playing career and look forward to matching wits with some of basketball’s greatest coaching minds during the season. I am looking forward to this challenge as everyone in and around the Liberty organization start preparations to bring the long awaited WNBA title to New York.”
At 42, McWilliams-Franklin was the oldest player on the Lynx as well as in the NBA, just four years her coach’s junior. Despite that, the 14-year WNBA veteran started 66 games for the Lynx over her two seasons with the team and played an integral part in its two trips to the WNBA Finals and its 2011 championship. She will retire having started the most games of any player in WNBA history (436), and she ranks second all-time in rebounds, with 3,013.
Barbara Ferris, who played in the WNBA from 2000-09, was hired along with McWilliams-Franklin. “I wanted assistant coaches that played the game and understand what championship teams are all about,” Laimbeer said in a statement. “Taj and Barb are both familiar with my coaching style and know what it takes to win a championship. I believe the players will get a great education from them as well as great camaraderie.”