June 26, 2021 

In her ‘home away from home,’ Morgan Tuck has a new opportunity

Tuck joined the Connecticut Sun front office in March after retiring from the WNBA

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Morgan Tuck smiles during team introductions during the Connecticut Sun’s home game against the Los Angeles Sparks on Jun. 6, 2019. (Photo credit: Chris Poss)

For Morgan Tuck, announcing her retirement from the WNBA in March was a bittersweet moment. She won a championship with Seattle last season—the first of her WNBA career—but she wasn’t necessarily planning on retiring.

The five-year veteran spent all offseason working on getting her body ready, particularly her knees, for training camp. She said she tried everything she could think of to prepare, but her knees just wouldn’t cooperate.

“I wish I could have played longer. I wanted to be an All-Star and do a lot of different things that I didn’t do, but I would say looking back—and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my career—from when I first started playing basketball, it’s a career that I’m proud of,” Tuck told reporters on Thursday. “It was tough at times, but it was amazing. I’ve had the best moments of my life during my basketball career.”

For Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller, who was entering his first season with the Sun when they drafted Tuck third overall out of UConn in 2016, Tuck’s retirement was an opportunity. The day she announced her retirement, Miller approached Mohegan leadership and the consulting group that was assisting the front office at the time about getting Tuck back in Uncasville in some capacity. He didn’t necessarily know what the role would be, but he knew she had to be involved.

“She is absolutely a person you want in your franchise. She was a terrific teammate and a champion at any level,” Miller said on Friday. “Her presence in every team at every level has produced champions. … She is just a terrific human.”

The Sun announced Tuck as director of franchise development on May 18. Her role revolves around developing an integrated community, social justice and fan development plan for the Sun, while also helping the players expand their impact beyond the basketball court.

“I just knew I wouldn’t be able to play at a high level, so I knew it was time to start a new chapter and move on to something else,” Tuck said. “I was really fortunate that this job was being created, and I had a couple people reach out just to gauge my interest. It was something [that,] right when I heard about it, I knew it would be an awesome opportunity.”

She is still new to the role, so she has been spending time on big-picture items and figuring out what she wants to accomplish, but a big focus has been on evolving Connecticut’s “Change Can’t Wait” platform, aimed at addressing racism and systemic oppression in Connecticut and New England.

Tuck wants to focus on making the platform more inclusive and reach more people to make a bigger impact, and she hopes to roll out more details after the Olympic break.

“I realize being on this side, there’s a lot of things to do and not a lot of people to do it, so I think everything takes some time,” she said. “Now it’s really about just getting into the community and just trying to start creating some of those relationships to hopefully partner for something bigger in the future.”

Tuck’s other day-to-day responsibilities include leading the team’s community relations and furthering the team’s youth development strategy.

She’s still getting a feel for the business side of the industry and is focusing on the bigger picture, but she has already collaborated on a few things in the community. Led by point guard Jasmine Thomas, the Sun are currently collecting gently-worn basketball shoes on game days for Sharing Shoes, and Thomas and Natisha Hiedeman represented the Sun at a youth basketball league earlier this week.

Tuck said since all players on the Sun are vaccinated, it’s easier to get them out in the community. Players also are encouraged to bring initiatives that are important to them to the table, which Thomas did for the Sharing Shoes drive.

“Jas is probably the one that’s the most involved, especially with Kay Yow [Cancer Fund]. She’s really helped foster that even with the league as a whole,” Tuck said. “So it just depends on the player and what they have ideas about, what they would like to do, and then we just kind of go from there.”

Tuck spent four seasons in Connecticut before playing her final season with the Seattle Storm. She said returning to the Sun, especially with so many of her former teammates still with the organization, has made her post-playing career transition much easier. She has been to a shootaround but for the most part stays out of practice and doesn’t travel with the team—a welcome change of pace for Tuck. “I only travel if there’s a very specific reason, and I don’t mind that all. I like to be in one spot and I get to enjoy my weekends when they’re on the road,” Tuck laughed. 

While Tuck’s office is no longer the basketball court, she said she still feels like she’s back on the bench during home games and loves supporting her former teammates. 

“I’ve played with them for years, so it’s really cool to still be able to see them and get to be around them. It’s in a different capacity when I’m here at Mohegan, but, you know, it’s nice to see some familiar faces,” Tuck said. “It’s just exciting and I think it makes it a little bit more enjoyable.”

Brionna Jones (center) and Morgan Tuck (left) celebrate Natisha Hiedeman after a play during a Connecticut Sun home game against the Dallas Wings on Sept. 4, 2019. (Photo credit: Chris Poss)

Brionna Jones played with Tuck on the Sun for three seasons and called Tuck one of her favorite people, so she was excited when she heard the front office had hired Tuck. 

“Having her back in the program is going to be great for us, great for her, and she’s a great person. She’s a great leader, so I’m excited for her and I’m so glad to have her back,” Jones said on Friday. 

Miller said Tuck doesn’t always need to be the loudest voice in the room, and she doesn’t speak just to hear herself, but she has been a terrific leader by example. Tuck has always defined the three pillars of Miller’s program, he said—preparation, attitude and effort.

“She’s learned through hardships. She’s fought back through knee injuries at multiple levels to be a champion. She’s continued to do that as a pro,” Miller said. “She’s the epitome of a champion. She’s the epitome of a leader, and she’s someone you want in your organization. And I’m glad the Mohegan leadership and our consulting group believed me and trusted me that Morgan Tuck was someone we needed.”

Tuck is happy to be back in Connecticut, her “home away from home” where, between college and the pros, she has spent more time than anywhere other than where she grew up in Illinois.

“Especially at Mohegan where I got to spend a lot of time, even playing here in college, you just get to know people—some of the security guys or people in IT or HR you just see walking around,” Tuck said. “And now to be back and to see people are excited that I’m here and being very welcoming, it just made the transition a little bit easier.”

Written by Jacqueline LeBlanc

Jacqueline LeBlanc is the Connecticut Sun beat reporter for The Next. Prior to The Next, Jacqueline has written for Her Hoop Stats and Sports Illustrated.

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