Coaches’ Corner: Yolanda Griffith

Coaches Corner: Yolanda Griffith

Matthew Barrett

Photo by Austin Drucker ‘17

“Qualified” is an understatement when discussing newly appointed women’s basketball assistant coach Yolanda Griffith.

“There are so many [favorite memories], but I would just have to go with winning two gold medals,” Griffith said. “I have a few others…winning the 2005 WNBA championship when a lot of people said that I would never do it. It was a knock to those who said I could never accomplish it.”

These accomplishments are just bullet points of what Griffith has achieved throughout her 16-year playing career. Griffith was awarded the WNBA Finals MVP in 2005 as a member of the Sacramento Monarchs to complement the championship.

Her rookie year, she earned a trio of awards – league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. A seven-time all-star and two-time first team all-league selection, Griffith is the WNBA’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds with 1,049.

Need any more proof of her qualification?

Griffith grew up in Chicago and found her love for basketball there in an interesting way.

“Actually growing up I was a little bad kid doing little bad things and I needed to take the energy I had and take it to something curricular,” said Griffith. “I just was a little tomboy; I played football, basketball… I played everything.”

Griffith was given the opportunity to try out for the boy’s basketball team in eighth grade. She felt that basketball would open up additional opportunities in college and better position herself for an education.

Following high school, Griffith enrolled at Palm Beach Junior College. Her stint there was short as she transferred and eventually graduated from Florida Atlantic University. Post-graduation, she played overseas in from 1993-1997 before entering the American Basketball League.

The Monarchs drafted her two years later. Ten years later, she announced her retirement and began her coaching career.

“Throughout my high school, college, and professional career, I’ve always been a captain, coach type of player and it just stuck with me,” Griffith said. “When I retired, I wanted to give back to the game and I just felt that I had enough knowledge from the many years I played to try to contribute to women’s basketball, so I decided I wanted to coach.”

Griffith comes to head coach Dianne Nolan and Lafayette after a season at Dartmouth College. Lafayette presented the opportunity to join the coaching staff as a first assistant and Griffith made for the perfect post-coach Nolan was searching for.

“It doesn’t matter which division it is, which conference it is, it’s all basketball,” Griffith said. “Some people don’t take chances. I took a chance with a very accomplished head coach and we thought that we could help each other continue to grow.”

Besides teaching the post, one of Griffith’s jobs is to improve mental toughness.

“I’m a tough coach,” said Griffin. “I’m not easy on the post players because the game is not easy. I just try to bring that tough mental aspect of the game and get them to understand that it’s a team sport not an individual sport.”

Thus far, Lafayette stands at 2-0. The Leopards beat Rider by a score of 67-62 to open their season and then barely escaped Brown University after Emily Homan ‘15 scored a clutch lay-up with 24.5 seconds remaining to give the Leopards a one-point lead.

Griffin has seen a lot of positives from the team’s play.

“We got to understand that no game is guaranteed and that we have to come ready to the rest of the games this season,” Griffith said. “I think the way we won these two games showed that we have the potential to go very far in our conference and non-conference.”

Griffith is optimistic for the future and hopes to make an impact for years.

“We all set goals,” Griffith said. “Seeing as how this is my first year at Lafayette, winning a Patriot League Championship is a goal. I want to be a better post coach so I can help our players fill their goals. Some teams have an edge on us, so we’re just going to work everyday to get better.”