Payne’s back — as coach

  • John Sleeper
  • Wednesday, October 31, 2007 10:43am
  • Life

Got a great hug out of Loree Payne yesterday, which automatically puts the day way above average. She’s all grown up now and an assistant basketball coach at Washington under Tia Jackson. I’m happy for her. She’s genuine. I don’t make it a point to hug athletes. I always make an exception with Loree. Great kid.

For those who don’t know, Loree is all over the UW record books in women’s basketball. Great shooter. Perfect motion. Loved to watch her launch and bomb away. Man, could she electrify a crowd. Better yet, she’s a great person.

Just a few highlights: She’s the career leader in 3-pointers attempted, 3-pointers made and second in free throw percentage.

Couple things about Loree. She’s great friends with Kayla Burt, the Arlington phenom who had to retire in the middle of her time at Washington because of serious heart problems. After Burt had her initial attack, it threw Payne off her game. I could tell. Her shooting was off. Loree’s shooting was seldom off.

I asked her about it and she opened up to me, right before she would have to begin practice. She said she’d never been as frightened as she had been that night. She thought Kayla was gone. She’d had nightmares since. She wasn’t getting a lot of sleep. She just remembered Kayla passing out, turning blue and in obvious distress.

I’ll always remember how Loree opened up that day. In other interviews, she always repeated the company line, never really gave us a lot we could use — in other words, she was a coach’s dream. In this case, this was Loree pouring her heart out. This was her. She was down. Maybe she just wanted somebody to talk to. I wrote the story and was satisfied with it. I think that started a feeling of mutual respect. I felt I’d gained her trust, which doesn’t often happen between athletes and media.

Another time, I’d brought my daughter to practice because she was on a school holiday. She was about 9 years old at the time. Players were in their pre-practice routine and I had to grab a few for interviews.

As I was interviewing one for a story — it may have been Kristin O’Neill — my daughter was watching Loree shoot 3-pointers. It was something to see. She’s shoot, make it, have someone pass the ball back to her, shoot and make it again.

So I’m interviewing O’Neill and suddenly, my daughter runs at me, pulls at my arm and says, “Daddy! That girl made 26 shots in a row!” Instantly, Loree was my daughter’s favorite.

And she still is. I told her last night that I’d talked to Loree at media day. She remembered. “Boy, could she shoot!” she said.

I’ll bet she’ll be a superb coach, too — if she isn’t already.

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