From Jennifer, With Love

By Doug Feinberg
Updated: October 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — Whether its offering an encouraging word or challenging the post players defensively, U.S. women’s basketball assistant coach Jennifer Gillom is making her presence felt in training camp.

“I’m just having fun out there,” Gillom said. “It’s a great opportunity to get involved with a program that I care so much about.”

It’s been a whirlwind summer for Gillom, who went into the WNBA season expecting to be an assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx for the second straight year. That all changed a few days before the first game, when head coach Don Zierden abruptly resigned.

That was only the start of an incredible few months as Gillom was inducted into the women’s basketball Hall of Fame and then named an assistant coach for the U.S. basketball team.

“In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have thought of the year I’ve had. It’s been a roller coaster ride,” Gillom said. “Just when you thought you had everything going one way something happens.”

Gillom got the Lynx off to a strong start before star Seimone Augustus went down for the season with an ACL injury. Minnesota just missed out on making the playoffs, but the future bodes well with three Lynx players in camp — Augustus, Candice Wiggins and Renee Montgomery.

“It’s great seeing coach Jen in a role where she can learn something,” Wiggins said. “I think she’s a lot more comfortable. She showed the other coaches they can be relaxed to. We’re all benefiting from her.”

Gillom is no stranger to USA basketball, having won five gold medals during her career, including one in the 1988 Olympics and two in the world championships.

“I think she’s got the perfect demeanor,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s competitive, she did it as a player, they respect her. She infuses them with a lot of energy, she challenges them. I can’t think of anybody better to have then her.”

She is so happy to be able to impart her wisdom and experience on the group in training camp, which includes those three players from her own WNBA team.

“It’s great to be able to talk to them and tell them about my experiences and work with them,” Gillom said. “As far as my own players, it’s nice to see them in a different light and not just on the basketball court. To be able to get to know them off the court is great.”

Gillom is already helping develop a post area that is a small concern for the U.S. team. With only two veterans returning from the 2008 Olympics gold medal team, the Americans are trying to develop young players Tina Charles and Jayne Appel.

“They are learning and getting better,” Gillom said. “It’s my job to help them reach their full potential and improve as players.”

Gillom hasn’t let her success change who she is. She still plans on going back to coach basketball at the high school in Phoenix that she’s been at for the last few years.

“I just am enjoying what I’m doing,” Gillom said, “and don’t want to change who I am.”