Legends Spotlight: Jackie Stiles

July 27, 2016

Of all your various accomplishments whether it was being a high school all American, the all-time division I women’s leading scorer, the NCAA national basketball player of the year, the WNBA rookie of the year…so many different accolades, what is your proudest basketball moment?

Ok, well basically I think its hard to pick one, I’ll give you two. One was reaching the final four at Missouri State because everyone just looked at that as an impossible dream to do at Missouri State. So that was a lot of fun cause at the time there wasn’t a lot of Cinderella stories in women’s basketball usually the top seeds just made the final four, so that was a moment I’ll never forget.

Then also, the second would be receiving the Rookie of the Year just because you know being 5’7 and I grew up in a town of 600 people, you know I’ve always kind of have been the underdog you know a lot of people questioned whether I could play at that level with my size and being a 2 guard and so that meant a lot just that you know that I had made it at that level. I told my second grade teacher that I was gunna play professional basketball one day ,and so to be able to make it and have a good season in the WNBA is something ill never forget and definitely cherish

So going back to your childhood your dad was the local high school basketball coach, is that correct?

Yes

So how did your dad shape your love for basketball and the game itself?

Oh, he’s definitely had a huge impact on me. I mean, I would follow him to the gym while he coached the varsity boys at our high school and he would always show me a fundamental and I couldn’t wait to show him that I could master it, that’s really kind of how it started. I can even remember going to coaching clinics with him as a young girl you know what typical young girl wants to go sit at a coaching clinic but I just couldn’t get enough of basketball and I really think it was because it was important to my dad and I would ride the bus to the games and you know I just was around it all the time and I fell in love with basketball very early. I look back and that was just such a blessing to find my passion at such an early age I knew exactly what I wanted to do and then to have that support right there as my dad being a coach and being to give me a great base of fundamentals early really helped me, I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for that and also my mom, I cannot leave her out. She worked 2-3 jobs so I could go to different camps and clinics across the country so I could develop my name. You know I am also very appreciative of her support as well.

You’re sister played at Missouri State as well didn’t she?

Yes, yes she did. I had another brother play at Cloud County Community College in Kansas and then went on to Washington University in St. Louis, played basketball. My one other brother played football at Dodge City and then Fort Hayes so we all played a college sport of something.

That’s very cool, going back to the 2001 final four, now 15 years ago…

Wow you’re making me feel really old, I cannot believe that was 15 years ago wow

What are some of the distinctive memories you have from the tournament, even though you ended up ultimately losing to Purdue what did you learn from that experience?

Well so many things, but gosh, you know I learned that if you work hard and have great chemistry you know play hard and play for each other. I mean there was no selfishness on our team and Coach Burnett did such a great job of giving us defined roles, you know even though I had the glory position of scoring points, everybody on the floor knew they were just as valuable and took pride in their role. We were able to accomplish so much more, we weren’t near the most talented team, I mean everybody on Duke was an All American but, we were able to outwork people and play together and play for each other and that just taught me a valuable lesson. If you will work hard and play together, play unselfish you can accomplish great things. You know, I’ll never forget when we were getting ready to play Duke everybody was talking about Duke playing their next round. No one gave us a chance but it didn’t matter cause everyone in that locker room believed we could win and even when we were down at halftime we still believed we could win. When we went on to beat Duke we kind of had that confidence that nothing was going to stop us now and then we actually beat Washington to advance but, it was a memorable run and something I’ll never forget and it was just a lot of fun cause my teammates were my friends off the court as well and I think that had a huge impact on our success the way we got along.

Are you still close or keep in contact with your former teammates?

Absolutely, there’s one Carly she was my roommate for basically five straight years and we became like sisters and we still talk all the time. They actually had a banquet here at Missouri State and kind of celebrate the Hall of Fame induction and she got up and spoke and just did an incredible job it brought back a lot of memories but we talk quite a bit and then Melody Campbell she’s actually a coach in Oklahoma and she actually helped us get one of our freshman signees. She told us about this girl and we were needing a point guard and it worked out, so definitely I keep in contact with several of them and you know its like even if I don’t talk to, there was five us of seniors that even if I don’t talk to one for awhile, when we do talk its like we haven’t left off you know we just pick up like we’ve been around each other everyday. So definitely what you go through and playing a college sport, the things you go through just bonds you together and you just have that bond for the rest of your life.

After a successful college career and start in the WNBA you sustained several injuries and had around 13 surgeries, what was it that motivated you to continue to come back to the court and play the game you love?

Well you know, ever since I could remember my whole mission was trying to be the best basketball player I could become. I pretty much put all my eggs in one basket, I mean it was my love, my passion and you know early when I knew I couldn’t play anymore I was like oh my gosh who am I or what am I going to do? You know, now, that was just such a singular focus in my mind and you know I kind of paid the price for it sometime there when I should’ve found out who am I without basketball it was almost like I lost my identity for a second. Now it’s great, I’ve found my way into coaching but it was very hard making that transition, because I never expected my career to end so soon and it was kind of me being the size I am and where I’m from I had to pretty much put all my eggs in one basket to reach the level I did and you know I paid the price because I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do after it was over.

Now looking back, would you change your training regiment if it meant you could have had a longer career on the court?

Yeah you know, I don’t have any regrets because with the knowledge that I had at the time, I did the best that I could do but most definitely yes. Just now what I’ve learned on how to take of my body and everything, I think I could have had a similar regiment but I now have ways to take care of my body with things like yoga, different kinds of physical therapy and treatment and stuff that I just wasn’t aware of when I was playing. It’s a tough balance, like I wonder if I hadn’t have had that work ethic then wouldn’t have accomplished what I did but I now know how to take care of my body with the over-training that I typically did. I guess, I wouldn’t have done so much running, I did a lot of running and that had a lot of impact and probably didn’t help me that much for basketball like distance running, I probably would’ve cut that out now but mainly now I know how to take care of my body better.

After you’re playing career you became a coach at Loyola Marymount?

I started my own business for a little while, and I still do a few things on the side with my coaching position, I am definitely limited now but I was doing basketball lessons, personal training, camps and clinics and there was just something missing and everyone would say, “well why aren’t you coaching,” and you know I always thought well if the right opportunity happened I might try it but that’s how I got started running my own business I just thought nothing was going to compare to my playing career and I’d just have to get used to that, but I got a text from a coach that played at Missouri State who was older than me and said will you be my assistant and I just knew I had to try it. Thank goodness I did because I knew ok this is what the next thing for my career is all about. So many people sacrificed help me do the things that I did and now I want to help others reach their goals and dreams. I am happy to be in the background, and just help others achieve their success.

Now you’re entering fourth season with Missouri State, what was it like having that homecoming, walking through that tunnel not as a player but as a coach?

It was amazing! I get goose bumps thinking about it. Just the feedback at a place that gave me so many incredible memories and you know that my mission now is to make Missouri State, the best it can be and you know when my time is done here I want people to say that I left it a better place, its just so special. Looking back, what made it so special was the people and the community and the way they support women’s basketball it was just special, special place and I’ll never forget that feeling being back here as coach, you know its definitely different but it’s a genuine sell for me because I had the best four years of my life playing at Missouri State.

Going back to your playing career for one second, can you describe your style of play with about 3-4 adjectives or statements?

Oh gosh that’s tough, you’re asking me some tough questions here. Let me think…I would say…I’ve never been asked this question, that’s pretty good cause I’ve been asked a lot of question. I would say…wow…competitive, I don’t know how to describe it but I loved to attack off the dribble, I was passionate out there, fierce, gritty, and tough. Actually my favorite thing to do was to create off the dribble and my go to shot was a pull-up jumper. I loved the right to left crossover to the pull-up jumper was probably my go to move, the midrange game.

You’ve been and are a coach, are there any players that you’ve coached, seen, or personally followed as they progressed that remind you of yourself in terms of their playing style?

Definitely, I remember my very first time to go out recruiting, I had just taken the job at LMU and I got to go out for like a couple days, it was the end of the viewing period, and I’ll never forget where I saw Kelsey Plum in high school and she had not committed any where yet, and I was like I know it’s a long shot but I just have to call that girl and she was number ten, my same number and just her game, her scoring mentality, and her midrange game, how tough and competitive and she could create her own shot definitely reminded me of myself. She’s great, I’ve absolutely loved watching her play and I would love for her to potentially break the all-time leading scorer record because she’s a great hard worker and just fun to watch and good person.

Now as a coach, what are some of the core lessons you try to instill in all of your players?

One of the biggest things, I’d say is work ethic. I mean if you really want to be great you’ve got to put the time in, you’ve got to work hard and you have to love what you do, you have to have fun doing it just because you can get so caught up in your goals and what you’re trying to achieve that you forget to have fun and enjoy the process. I always tell our players, you don’t realize how special playing any college sport but especially college basketball is, and being on a team until its over. It’s such a small window of your life to just make the most of it and I don’t ever what one of our players to walk away saying, “gosh I wish I would’ve worked a little harder,” or have any regrets, just to make the most of this experience, enjoy it, work hard, and just have fun.

What are some of the lessons you personally have learned as a coach that you might not have learned while playing on the court?

Well definitely now I know how to better take care of my body and do the little things that I didn’t think I needed to do like the stretching, the warming up, you know it will catch up with you so things like that. Definitely, I watch the game differently as a coach. As a player, I would always follow the ball and watch scorers and how they score. Now as a coach I always see the whole picture a lot more you know, I see the plays develop where I used to never look at it that way as a player.

Who would you say your role model was a player and has that changed now as a coach?

Growing up I was obsessed with Michael Jordan, I read every book, watched every video ever made about him. I would chew gum because he chewed gum, you know I just loved Michael Jordan early. Then, Melody Howard who was a star at Missouri State who I saw take them to their first Final Four. She was someone I looked up to and I also looked up to Cynthia Cooper, I loved watching her game. Ohh I also can’t forget Larry Bird and Pistol Pete. I would watch Larry Bird highlights before every game and read all his books.

As a coach, I love Hoiberg (Fred) out of Iowa State, I loved watching him and now he’s in the NBA. I’ve read Pat Summitt’s books, learned a lot from her reading different things. John Wooden, I loved reading his books as a coach now. Sherri Coale, I love the way she coaches at Oklahoma. My boss Kellie Harper, I’ve learned a ton from her. Gosh, there are so many different coaches I’ve take bits and pieces from and learned from as a coach now.

What are your long-term coaching goals and what do you see yourself doing in the future?

I just want to continue to have a platform to help empower athletes to be more than they ever thought possible. Right now, I am enjoying being an assistant, I learning a lot. But, maybe one day I’d like to try being a head coach if the opportunity exists. I don’t know exactly, but I am extremely happy where I am at now. I definitely see myself continuing to coach, I don’t know if it’ll be assistant or head coach for sure but, I just want to make the biggest impact I can to help the game of basketball because it’s given me so much, it’s given me everything. So anything I can do to give back and to help make it better is what I want to do.

You brought it up how you were quoted telling your 2nd grade teacher that you’d play professional basketball. That was before the WNBA was even formed, not only were you successful in college and during your time in WNBA, but you’re now being inducted into the Hall of Fame and immortalized with other legends of your sport, can you summarize what that all means to you and put it into perspective?
Well, it’s really hard for me because, I never imagined when I started playing that I would be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It really is a sheer credit to the people I’ve had surrounding me. I mean, I’ve had so many people that I share this honor with because without them I would not be achieving something like this. It’s so amazing and I’m so blown away by it its really hard for me to put it in words what it means to me, but all I know is that I share it with a ton of people because they made me look good for all those years from my parents to my teammates to all the incredible coaches, the support I had at Missouri State…just so many people played a part in it, I’m just so appreciative and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.

Jackie, I thank you again for your time and congratulate you on your induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.