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Seimone Augustus explains her decision to retire and join Sparks coaching staff

Seimone Augustus on court during pregame warmups in 2017
Just because she’s done playing doesn’t mean Seimone Augustus’ competitive juices have stopped flowing.
(Stacy Bengs / Associated Press)

For 15 years, Seimone Augustus’ body did exactly what her mind instructed. Shoot, jump, crossover opponents so ruthlessly that they ended up on the floor, the former Sparks forward could do it all. But as she prepared for her 16th season in the WNBA, Augustus’ body started to bark back.

“For once, my mind couldn’t tell my body to do what it wanted it to do,” Augustus said Wednesday, less than a week after announcing her retirement from the WNBA.

The four-time WNBA champion joined the Sparks coaching staff as an assistant after playing for the team last year.

The dramatic decision was finalized 30 minutes before Sparks head coach Derek Fisher submitted his final roster to the WNBA on May 13. Augustus had been kicking the idea of retirement around for a few weeks when the aches in her body became too much to bear and left her fearful of what would happen if she pushed herself too far during training camp. She talked with her parents. They wondered what took her so long.

It’s time for you to get some rest, Augustus recalled her mother telling her.

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“I had my fun in the sun and that sun was like, beaming hot,” Augustus said during a 45-minute video conference in which she laughed, cried and shared stories from her career. “I got sunburns from the sun that I was able to sit in for a while.”

Chiney Ogwumike was back after sitting out last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Sparks lost 94-71 to the visiting Dallas Wings.

Augustus awed opponents with her competitiveness during 14 years with the Minnesota Lynx where she rose to stardom, but modestly stepped aside this season. While her mind and body were playing tug-of-war, Augustus saw younger players like Nia Coffey and Bria Holmes working hard to earn a coveted roster spot. Any minutes saved for a veteran struggling to stay healthy would cut into opportunities for Coffey and Holmes, two fifth-year wing players who have struggled to carve out large roles in the league.

“If I’m not able to give what I’m used to giving, then I have to allow someone else to carry this torch and live out their dreams,” Augustus said.

Augustus has “seen everything I’ve needed to see,” she added. Four WNBA titles with the Lynx. Three Olympic gold medals with Team USA. Eight All-Star appearances. Her 6,005 points rank 10th in WNBA history.

Since a 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated for Women asked if Augustus was “the next Michael Jordan,” the Baton Rouge, La., native has indeed lived her dream. Reflecting on her career Wednesday, Augustus seemed in awe of her journey that started when her father set out lawn chairs for her to run drills when the family couldn’t afford more expensive training equipment.

Now strangers from her hometown tell her she’s the reason they picked up a basketball. She sees parents whispering to their kids about how Augustus made it and how there’s hope for them too.

Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore ride in parade with trophies
Minnesota Lynx players Seimone Augustus, left, and Maya Moore ride in a victory parade to celebrate the team’s WNBA championship on Oct. 16, 2015, in Minneapolis.
(Stacy Bengs / Associated Press)

“Nipsey Hussle said it the best: The highest human act is to inspire,” Augustus said.

Considering her accomplished playing career, coaching seems like a natural transition for Augustus to continue her influence on the game, but it was one she tried to avoid for years. Strangers asked her about it, but she brushed it off. Friends who saw the way Augustus influenced young people in her hometown pressed her. It felt inevitable.

Because Augustus’ addition to the coaching staff was so sudden, her exact role is still being defined, said Fisher, who initially offered her the coaching role after Augustus called to say she wanted to retire.

One day after announcing her retirement, Augustus made her WNBA assistant coaching debut on May 14. Players who were her teammates 30 hours prior started calling her “Coach OG” or “Coach Money” while she rebounded during pregame warmups and assisted with ballhandling drills.

The Sparks set their final roster before the start of the 2021 season, adding Seimone Augustus to their coaching staff while trading Sydney Wiese.

Watching the Sparks’ 94-71 loss to the Dallas Wings in Friday’s season opener, Augustus was frustrated when she saw opportunities for big plays go unnoticed on the court. But the newest coach was also quick to support players on the bench after tough possessions, guard Brittney Sykes said.

“If my knees would have let me get in the game, I would have pulled up a couple threes,” Augustus said.

Just because she’s done playing doesn’t mean Augustus’ competitive juices have stopped flowing. A friend who is also in coaching explained to Augustus, a video game fanatic, that coaching is just like her favorite games. She can still think of different strategies to attack an opponent. She can still compete to win.

That message brought a glint to Augustus’ eye.

“This is about to be fun,” she said with a smile.


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