Jackson Herald sports reporter Ben Munro talks with former WNBA player and current Jackson County girls’ basketball coach Christi Thomas about the highlight and heartbreak moments of her professional basketball career, her favorite basketball movies, playing music during practices and the challenges of being a first-year coach during a pandemic.
Munro: You played seven seasons in the WNBA and then overseas. What game sticks out to you most vividly from your professional career?
Thomas: I have two games that stick out the most. One was in the WNBA when Sophia Young hit a last-second shot for San Antonio and we lost the Western Conference finals. I just remember being so excited that we were about to make it to the finals, and she broke our hearts that game.
The second was on April Fools Day and my team was playing in the Israeli finals, and I hit a game-winning 3. It was the only game we won in the five-game series.
Munro: You played in several different places and countries as a pro. What was your favorite city in which you lived during your basketball travels?
Thomas: My favorite countries are Israel and Italy. La Spezia, Italy, and Florence, Italy are my two favorite Italian cities. Almost everything is Israel is amazing! I played in Ashdod, Israel which was an amazing city! Izmir, Turkey is also a fantastic city.
Munro: Which place had the best food?
Thomas: I am partial to Mediterranean food because I played in those countries the longest, but Italian food hands down is the absolute best!
Munro: You were an All-American at UGA under legendary coach Andy Landers. Do you have a favorite Andy Landers story?
Thomas: Every story with coach Landers is my favorite story. The thing that I am the most grateful for is the family atmosphere that he built that spanned generations. He is the kind of coach that you can go to at any time, and he will do what he can to help and gives great advice.
Munro: You’re now in your first year as a head coach. How challenging has this season been with the obstacles of the pandemic?
Thomas: This has been so very challenging ... I was already anticipating the hardships of just moving over a seat, but with constant rule modifications, and regulations to keep us safe, it makes it hard to build culture and good habits. This year has been truly about supporting our athletes and getting them to understand how worthy they are. It might be a blessing in disguise, but as a competitive person it has been frustrating. Right now, we are dealing with more than just basketball.
Munro: Switching gears now: What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Thomas: The best concert I have ever attended was in Chicago for Beyonce's Formation Tour.
Munro: Do your musical tastes contrast greatly with those of your players? Is there a common ground?
Thomas: I think we have some crossover, but I am a little more low key than my athletes. Hip hop has a way of bringing people together, and as a former player, I understand how music get you prepared to play! We play music in practice, and I want them to be in a good place, so I play stuff that they can relate to!
Munro: Sticking to the world of entertainment, what’s the best basketball movie ever made?
Thomas: He Got Game; Hoosiers; Uncle Drew — because my former teammate (Lisa Leslie) — is in it; and Believe in Me.
Munro: And finally, you’ve had experience at every level of basketball. What’s the most rewarding aspect of being involved in the high school game?
Thomas: The relationships are most definitely the most rewarding part, but I also love the light-bulb moments. When you have been teaching and pouring in and that moment that it all makes sense to them! It happens at different times for different athletes, but seeing them get it and be successful is such a great feeling!