When New York Liberty point guard Teresa Weatherspoon retired in 2004, she was the Liberty’s all-time leader in assists and steals. She played in 29 playoff games as the heart and soul of the Liberty’s four Finals runs and was the first player in WNBA history to tally 1,000 points and 1,000 assists. Weatherspoon is one of the original stars of the league, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member, and a current Assistant Coach for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Weatherspoon, ‘T-Spoon’, or just ‘Spoon’, was known primarily for her passing and defense during her playing career. Weatherspoon won the WNBA’s first two Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 1997 and 1998. She was the WNBA’s All-Time Assists leader for most of her career until being overtaken by Ticha Penichiero in 2004.
Spoon finished her career averaging 5.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 1.8 steals. Even though she hasn’t played in sixteen seasons, Weatherspoon still ranks 12th All-Time in assists. Weatherspoon was a four-time All-WNBA Second Team selection and five-time All-Star.
Weatherspoon made the WNBA go viral early in the league’s history, with her legendary game-winning 50-foot shot to send the 1999 Finals to Game 3. It is one of the most iconic plays in the history of the league and has lived on long after Weatherspoon’s career. The bucket is truly remarkable.
After her playing career, Weatherspoon began coaching. She coached her alma mater Louisiana Tech’s Lady Techsters basketball team from 2008 to 2014. The Lady Techsters made two appearances in the NCAA tournament during her tenure, but never made it out of the first round.
Weatherspoon rejoined the Liberty in 2014 as a consultant, and in 2015 was hired to be New York’s first Director of Player Development. Spoon was tasked with court instruction, individual workouts with Liberty players, and scouting opponents. The Liberty finished in first place three straight years during her tenure in the Liberty organization. In 2017, Weatherspoon was promoted to the front office as Director of Franchise Development contributing to off-court and team business initiatives.
However, in 2019 Weatherspoon left the Liberty after the New Orleans Pelicans hired her to be a two-way player development coach. She split her time between the Pelicans and their G-League affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania. Weatherspoon joined a juicy situation in New Orleans, being tasked with helping develop their once-in-a-generation young talent in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
The significance of Weatherspoon’s role cannot be understated- a former WNBA player is tasked with growing the next NBA superstar. Weatherspoon is out on the court doing drills with Zion, directly impacting his basketball development.
It’s not just Zion either. The young Pelicans roster, including Brandon Ingram, work directly with Spoon in the gym.
Weatherspoon’s coaching must have impressed Stan Van Gundy, who added her to his full-time coaching staff after being named Head Coach of the Pelicans for the 2020-2021 season. As a full-time Assistant Coach, Weatherspoon doesn’t just impact the team during practice. She is on the bench during games having an immediate impact on the team’s performance.
Zion Williamson said on February 21, 2021, after getting the ball at the last second in a come-back win, “That means a lot to me. That’s what every player puts in hard work, to be in those moments. … [Assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon] especially. When she saw I was frustrated in the first half and came to me and gave me a lot of words about confidence. It means a lot.”
After a February 10, 2021 loss to the Bulls, Stan Van Gundy said about rookie Kira Lewis Jr. that, “Teresa Weatherspoon’s done a terrific job with him, getting him acclimated to the NBA, and I really look forward to watching his growth as the season goes on.”
When asked where Kira Lewis’ confidence comes from as a rookie, Zion said, “I think it’s Teresa Weatherspoon… I think when you have a person like her on the sideline, it does a lot for your confidence.”
One of the biggest basketball phenoms in the world has only good things to say about Teresa Weatherspoon, and that says all you need to know about her. Zion and Van Gundy make it clear that Spoon does an amazing job of boosting the confidence of the young players on the Pelicans roster. She is an integral part of the growth and development of the Pelicans franchise as they try to turn their young talent into playoff contenders.
As the Pelicans try to grab a playoff spot this 2020-2021 season, do not underestimate Teresa Weatherspoon’s role in helping the team reach that goal. Catch her on the sidelines guiding Zion and the rest of the young Pelicans roster as they try to take their game to the next level.
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AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman