While it has been about a year since Sheryl Swoopes played competitive basketball, the Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA great is about to dust off her high-tops, and her best moves.
Now 42, the 6-foot-1 Swoopes figures one of the best ways to break the ice at her new job is to play a little 1-on-1 with the people she'll be working closely with each day -- the players she's inheriting as the new head women's basketball coach at Loyola University.
"You knew that had to be coming," laughed Swoopes, as she motioned to Loyola's players at Monday's news conference to introduce her. "We'll just get that out of the way right away at our first practice."
Swoopes, who isn't used to losing, is a bit conflicted as to how she'll react to the outcomes of the 1-on-1 games. Winning might not be best this time around.
"If I lose to them, and, of course, I say 'if', I can always say, well I'm 42, you guys are supposed to beat me," Swoopes said. "But if I beat them, I'm going to say, 'I'm 42. How did I beat you? I've got to figure out which is worse."
Swoopes, who replaces former Northwestern player Eric Simpson (57-66 in four seasons at Loyola), has a long list of things to figure out for her first head coaching job.
Coaching has long been a dream for Swoopes, though. She says that she knew during her college days at Texas Tech, when she scored a record 47 points in a victory over Ohio State in the 1993 NCAA national championship game, that she eventually wanted to coach.
"I remember telling a reporter after that championship game that I was going to be coaching college ball someday," Swoopes said.
When she closed the book on her 12-year professional playing career for good last year, Swoopes was anxious to make the jump to, as she says, "the other side of the whistle."
Swoopes originally contacted Loyola officials about interest as an assistant coach, figuring she would need to build up her resume before seeking a head coaching job.
"But the more we explored the conversation and the more I extensively talked with people who had coached Sheryl and worked with her, the more I heard those resounding qualities that, in my mind, will make her a great head coach at Loyola." Loyola athletic director Dr. M. Grace Calhoun said. "Sheryl is all about the development of young people. She understands this is a way to teach life lessons and to position young people for the future.
"Every single coach I talked to described how she was a coach on the floor and that she lifted everyone up and figured out what needed to be done and she got the team there. I'm very optimistic she's going to make a smooth transition."
Swoopes admits to being nervous about this new chapter in her life, and admits to having a lot to learn. But she says that her passion for the game, as well as the support she'll get from the staff that she is assembling, will help to settle her in.
"I never like to think that I'm weak at anything, I don't think any of us do," Swoopes said. "But I also know I have some weakness in terms of the daily operations of things and how all of this works and how recruiting works. It's a different ballgame for me. But I knew that when I decided it was time for me to do this. Even though they are weaknesses for now, it's not like this is something I can't overcome.
"The most important thing is that everything that involves the basketball side and relating to players, I'm very confident with."