In 1998 I was 33, been coaching for 13 years – all of it on the Men’s side. I thought I knew quite a bit. Knew how to scout, teach, X & O, drill, act and especially knew how to work. Work hard, work long.
That Summer I met Vickie Johnson. I didn’t know it at the time, but my education was just beginning. VJ had all of that stuff down pat, and more. Vickie Johnson was a Pro’s Pro.
The “face” of the New York Liberty at that time was and is Teresa Weatherspoon. That was fine with VJ. Even when you got past Spoon you had Rebecca Lobo and New York fan favorite Sue Wicks as more prominent personalities. That was fine with VJ. VJ’s place on those Liberty teams was in the locker room, on the practice court and when the lights came on at Madison Square Garden. Ask any of the other women… VJ was our Rock.
From 1998 – 2004, nearly 6 seasons, I worked with VJ on and off the court. Traveled with VJ, saw VJ behind the scenes. Watched how she walked, talked, conducted her business. I was fortunate. As an assistant you develop a slightly different relationship with players than you do as a head coach. During that time she taught me more about how to be a professional person, a good person, than I could have ever taught her about basketball. Thank You VJ.
It was just who VJ was. She had a way about her all the time. I’ve never heard her say anything about herself. Never. Never speak of anything but winning. The team and winning were all that mattered to VJ regarding basketball. That, her faith and her family.
VJ played hurt, tired, feeling great. She played sick, sore, happy or sad. You never knew. She played all the time. She practiced everyday like it was game three of the WNBA Finals. Hard. Intense and focused. She let her teammates know if their practice habits weren’t good enough. VJ didn’t yell and scream much, occasionally, that high-pitched “shhheeeeett!”, oh when she did – you stopped and listened. Then VJ would hug them, make them feel worthy and special. That was VJ.
Thank You VJ. Congratulations.