Storm reserve Alysha Clark has a different offseason planned this year. Instead of heading to Israel, she’ll join her alma mater, Middle Tennessee State, as an assistant coach.
Clark, 25, was named Player of the Year during all four years of college — twice in Atlantic Sun and twice in Sun Belt. She led the NCAA in scoring and set a school record with an average 27.5 points as a senior. She scored 48 points and hit the game-winning shot in the Sun Belt Championship game as a senior.
In coaching, Clark has dabbled in the field via AAU teams in the past and thought about making it a profession after MTSU coach Rick Insell mentioned it to her recently. She was officially hired on Thursday. Here, Clark talks about the new gig.
Seattle Times: So, is coaching something you always wanted to do?
Clark: Yeah, it’s always been in the back of my mind. I’ve coached AAU through high school and college and I just like being around it. This opportunity is a great opportunity. Being young, I figure, I don’t have a husband. I don’t have any kids. I can afford to try some different things and paths in finding which way I want to go.
Q: That area is still home for you, too, right?
Clark: Where Middle is from my hometown (Mount Juliet) is probably 45-minutes to an hour and where I live now is in between, so it’s perfect. It’s home.
Q: Did you have to really debate accepting the job?
Clark: I’ve known about the opportunity because the post coach that was there (Alex Fuller) went to Ole Miss, so I knew there was a vacancy. I’ve kind of been thinking about it, weighing my options and I prayed about it a lot. It just seemed like a great opportunity right now and I didn’t want to pass up on it. I talk to Coach Insell all the time, he’s a great male figure in my life. He expressed intrest of what I thought about it and that’s how it started. I was like, ‘Hmm, let me think about it.’ At the beginning I was thinking, ‘This is huge! This is such big news, what do I do?’ That’s kind of how it went.
Q: Are you concerned about staying fit for another WNBA season without playing overseas?
Clark: I’ve talked with (first-year Storm strength coach) Susan Borchardt about getting me an offseason workout program to do while I’m (coaching), so I can lift and keep my strength up. I have a trainer in Nashville that I was working with before I came to the WNBA this year that I’m going to stay involved with and one of the MTSU men’s coaches was my shooting coach when I first got out of college. I have people around that I’m going to still continue to work with so I can be in shape and be ready.
Q: How much has the program changed since you graduated in 2010?
Clark: The program hasn’t changed in a sense of what direction Coach Insell is trying to take it. We’ve had some great recruits come through there and we’ve still been able to get to the NCAA tournament. But our goal is still to get deep in the NCAA tournament and I’m hoping by me coming on board, it’ll give…There’s a lot of great girls in Tennessee that come out that look to go other places. Maybe now they see that I’ve done it and kind of been an underdog, it can happen. Maybe it’ll be good for us (MTSU) and help bring a little more confidence to our program to show we’re here.
Q: You never forget a player like Tina Stewart, but are spirits up in light of the tragedy?
Clark: No, never. Every pair of shoes I have, I have her name on it. She’s always going to be on my mind and on my heart. She was like my little sister. For me, it’s going to be weird in a sense being back there, you know, but they’re great. Coach Insell, they still are very aware and they have her living on so I’m hoping when I’m there, we can do some more things especially just for Tina. Keep her name there and keep her legacy out. Let people know she’s still a part of us.
Q: What will your responsibilities be with the team?
Clark: I’m over the post players, which I’m thrilled about kind of being back in my domain. That’s really exciting. And I’ll be able to talk to recruits and be part of that aspect. And breaking down film, doing scouting reports. I was like, ‘Thank God I’ve been here in the WNBA to learn how to do a productive scouting report!’ (Storm assistants) Jenny (Boucek) and Nancy (Darsch) are great at doing it. I keep all of the scouting reports they do anyway and now especially for times like this. I can help bring some different aspects to our college game.
Q: Now that you have the position, do you lean on them more?
Clark: I’ve always been an avid learner. I pay attention all the time and ask questions whenever I can. The people we have on our team, how can you not? I’ve listened to anything and everything — how to talk to players, how to get the best out of your players, how to read certain situations. They’re some of the best coaches, not just in the league, but in women’s basketball in general. And we have some of the best players to every play the game. I think I have some pretty good references. I told Tina (Thompson), I may just give you a call if I have a question for you guys. My friend, (Lewis & Clark HS) Briann January (Indiana Fever), I said, ‘If I call you Bri and need some pointers, you’ve got to talk to me.’ She said, ‘I got you Leesh. I got your back.’
Q: You flooded my Twitter timeline with all of your congratulatory re-tweets. Obviously a lot of people are happy for you. How has that aspect been since accepting this position?
Clark: (Laughs) Sorry. It’s been great, especially with social-media. Having that connection with people — whether it’s people that have known me since high school when I wasn’t good at all to people who just know me through my college and WNBA experience — I’ve been able to reach a multitude of people based on me as a person and a player and my story. It’s really nice to see that they follow and they’re happy for me. I really appreciate it and it’s awesome.
Q: With that, do you think you’ll have to be more conscientious with tweets and such now that you’re a coach?
Clark: No. I’ve always been very conscientious of what I put out there whether it’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I’ve always been very conscientious because I know the type of effect it can have for a professional athlete. Maybe I’ll have to, I don’t know. I’m just nervous and excited. I just have a bunch of things…I told Meek (Storm PG Temeka Johnson) ‘I need to go buy a planner. I need to get all this stuff.’ She was like, ‘You nervous?’ Maybe a little bit.
Q: I think they use an iPad these days, not a Day Runner.
Clark: Yeah. But I need a bigger iPad! I (was telling Johnson), ‘I need to have all kinds of space!’ She just fell out laughing. But I’m serious though.