I didn’t wish that I’d have a big night. I knew she was great and I did not have anything to prove. I just wanted to be decent against her. And it’s not as though I hoped she had a bad night. I just hoped she didn’t have a very good one. I just hoped to contain her. To do okay against her for my time was passing and her party was just getting started as she cut her teeth on players like me in the Big Ten.
But did I know that I was guarding the player that would be the all-time leading scorer in WNBA history? Three-time gold medal winner? One of the best players in the world? A player who would log an iron-woman-like career for 17 years and retire still playing fairly well at 39?
No. And here’s what else I didn’t know when I re-connected with Katie Smith over Facebook and invited her to dinner in Harlem. I didn’t know how cool and fun she was and how easy it was to talk to her about hoops, careers, life and family. Her pride as a player was apparent. “Mo,” she said. “Didn’t matter that I was white. I could just go. I could move.” She proved this time and time again, so there is room for her to state the obvious. Now she’s heading into the next part of her life and she’s bringing the same mentality she has as a young player. In her second year as an assistant coach, Katie stated clearly that she has a lot to learn about being a coach and she was willing to put her in her time (Did Michael Jordan ever say this? Think this way?). It’s this exact mentality that kept driving her skill work, work ethic and desire to get under the hood on the details.
What was also notable to me was how Katie handled the pressure. Maybe she was lying through her perfect teeth when she said, “I was just playing basketball and loving every minute of the game. I was happy out there.”
When asked about how different her life would be if she was a male player with her accomplishments, Katie said sure, she’d love to have more money in her bank account, but she wasn’t sold on the fame. She said she wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without people wanting her or asking her for something.
Listen to an honest, fun and inspirational podcast interview with one of the greats, Katie Smith. Katie will tell her about her parents and their parenting style through what it was like to endure two ACL tears and what she felt differentiated herself from other players during her path to excellence. In having spoken to Katie and after watching her on the sidelines at the Liberty games, I do think that she will be a truly outstanding head coach at the pro and/or college level in the near future.