May 23, 2021
The end of Seimone Augustus’ illustrious career
“If I’m not able to give what I’m used to giving, then I have to allow someone else to carry the torch and live out their dreams"
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Fifteen-year WNBA veteran Seimone Augustus made headlines at the start of the season when she announced her decision to retire as a player and join Los Angeles Sparks head coach Derek Fisher’s coaching staff.
Augustus was coming off a strong 2020 season, her first with the Sparks, as one of the team’s most dependable reserves and a steadying veteran presence. Augustus re-signed with the Sparks as a free agent in the offseason and appeared set to resume her role.
In an offseason call with media, Augustus made it clear that she had every intention to retire as a Spark whenever the time came for her to call it quits.
Heading into training camp, it was clear the Sparks were going to have some major roster battles on their hands. With only 15 players allowed in camp and 12 on the regular-season roster, tough decisions were going to have to be made.
That made Augustus really think long and hard about whether she wanted to continue to play. In a call with media this past week, Augustus recalled thinking that if her body wasn’t up to where she wanted it to be, her roster spot should go to a younger player more capable of handling the daily grind of the season.
“It’s a lot of great, talented players that got waived over the past week. There’s a lot of players from overseas that you all know about or have never heard about that’s waiting on an opportunity here,” Augustus said. “If I’m not able to give what I’m used to giving, then I have to allow someone else to carry the torch and live out their dreams … I’m having a tug-of-war battle with my mind and body and they have able bodies that can go out there, that are young and fresh, that are trying to find a home here in LA, and they want to play and they can play at the highest level.”
In the months and weeks leading up to the start of the season, Augustus was getting the feeling that it was time to seriously consider retirement. She labored through workouts with her trainer and recalled feeling fatigued. In intense practices with her younger teammates, the aches and pains she was feeling were starting to get to her.
After a discussion with her parents, Augustus called Fisher and let him know what path she wanted to take. And it was Fisher who offered her a spot on his coaching staff. Augustus admitted that coaching wasn’t something she necessarily wanted to get into, but she kind of warmed up to the idea while a birthday party for a friend’s son.
A child at the party was struggling to get on a pogo stick, and Augustus was able to guide him through and help him.
“I was literally telling him how to adjust and do certain things, basically coaching him. And after he figured it out, he started pogoing all around the yard,” Augustus recalled. “Our friend walked up to me and was like, ‘When are you going to stop play and just start coaching … look at what just happened: you were able to tell him what to do, how to do it, and he listened. You know how rare it is that young people listen and they take your advice … I really think you need to tap into that gift.’”
Even so, it took Augustus a little while to realize that she wasn’t suiting up anymore. On the Sparks’ opening night against the Dallas Wings on May 14, Augustus caught herself heading into the players’ locker room instead of meeting with the rest of the coaching staff.
Assistant coach Fred Williams advised her to fit in wherever she could, so she decided to focus on working with players on ball-handling and assorted other drills to ease into her new role.
“It was still kind of funky because when game time came, it’s almost like coaching is like being a parent: you teach your kids something and you put them out there and see what they’re going to do,” Augustus said. “You’re just sitting over trying to figure this stuff out with them … if my knees would’ve let me get in the game, I would’ve pulled up for a couple threes. I saw some openings.”
As she begins her transition down her new career path, Augustus is proud of what she’s been able to accomplish, the legacy she’s left behind and most importantly, the impact she’s been able to have on people’s lives.
“I was a big fish in a small pond coming from Louisiana like I was. People have said, ‘I picked up a basketball because of you,’” Augustus said. “My proudest moment is being able to impact. I guess Nipsey [Hustle] said it best, ‘the highest human act is to inspire,’ and so to be able to inspire whoever, whatever race, whatever age group.”