Catching up with Adrienne Goodson: The basketball legend talks about her career, her alma mater, her book and more
Photos courtesy Adrienne Goodson
Die-hard fans of women’s basketball who have followed the WNBA from its inception are familiar with the name Adrienne Goodson. A fan favorite while she was in college and on the pro scene, “Goody,” as she is popularly known, remains in the game as a coach, mentor, and motivational speaker.
While she hails from New Jersey, becoming a high school All-American at Bayonne High School, she made her mark on the national scene as a standout at Old Dominion University under coach Marianne Stanley. She helped the team win the national championship in 1985, beating Georgia and finishing the season 31-3.
After playing overseas in Brazil and also for the USA national team, Goodson became a part of the inaugural season of the now-defunct American Basketball League in 1996, becoming an All-Star in consecutive seasons. She began her WNBA career playing for the Utah Starzz and was an All-Star in 2002. She’s also spent time as a college coach, working as an assistant at ODU under renowned coach Wendy Larry.
Last year she chronicled some of her early life and playing career in short e-book, Elevate Your Game: From Athlete to Corporate World. In addition, she teaches public speaking at Barringer High School in Newark, NJ where she is also an assistant coach for the boy’s varsity basketball team.
Currently, Goodson is with her parents, her mother and stepfather, in New Jersey, taking care of them amid the coronavirus pandemic. She took some time out of taking care of her family and her exercise regimen to talk with Hoopfeed about her life journey so far, the state of women’s basketball, and more. Here is part one of her extensive conversation with us.
On taking care of her parents during a coronavirus pandemic and receiving a negative result from a COVID-10 test after being sick due to allergies.
“I went and got tested and thank God it came back negative. I just didn’t want to play around with it because I was around people, you know, and I was exposed. I surely didn’t want to expose my parents to it because they are 70 and 75 with compromised health. My biggest concern during this time was to make sure that they stay COVID-19 free because that wouldn’t be good for them….Having the opportunity to be a force for them is awesome.”
On what she’s doing during the shelter-at-home period
“Spending a lot of time working on myself and doing things that I wouldn’t have been able to do because I would have been at work from nine to five.”
“I’ve always wanted to do a podcast and know now that video is so strong, I’ve been able to incorporate that. The whole idea, the whole concept, comes from being the type of player that I was and some of the things that I’ve encountered as a player. I wanted the podcast to be about those things that people weren’t talking about, those players that weren’t getting the big up that they deserve to get, to get and bring exposure from a player’s standpoint….I want to give an inside look at what goes on in the minds of a lot of players that are current, and especially former players who are out there, what they’re doing, where they are now, what’s going on with them.”
On producing the podcast
“I’m the one who’s doing everything from producing to editing.”
The podcast team also includes former WNBA players Tamecka Dixon (a New Jersey native as well) and Penny Toler.
On the podcast aims, the WNBA and supporting retired players.
“People need to know who we are. We are a bridge to a gap.”
“The need is there for former players to be in the league, as mentors and working in most front offices and, you know, the WNBA getting to a point where it stands on its own two feet so that during times like these, we can reach back and get jobs.”
On the role of the NBA’s player’s association programs on her career and giving a face to pioneers in the game on the women’s side
“Those programs are the programs that have driven me…allowed me to hone my skills in leadership and coaching. But it would be nice to be able to go and fall back on the WNBA and go through these programs and get jobs from them instead of always having knock on the NBA’s door, and make them welcome us. We still have a long way to go. I would love to continue to grow, the game of basketball, women’s basketball men’s basketball. Just the game of basketball period. I love it. You know I don’t have a love for men or women’s basketball. I am basketball, so I try not to divide myself like that, like people have a tendency to try to make us do. Just being able to grow the game is really important for me so most of my platforms have to do with shouting out former players and giving it a face, to those players. These young kids need to know, they have no idea.”
On her motivation to write a book after a mentee of hers, Vid Buggs Jr., started a publishing company
“He played at Old Dominion University and I ended up mentoring him for quite a few years, 20 years so. And, you know, he becomes a publisher. So, every now and again he would joke around, ‘Goody, you’ve got to let me write your book, you got to let me write your book.’ I never really had time to actually sit down.”
“It’s a motivational book, for people, just for them to understand that you know it’s tough being a woman, it’s definitely tough, as you can see now, just being black, period. And let’s not even talk about being a black man so you know there’s just those struggles that we have to overcome. And they are not going away. It’s learning how to navigate through all of that and understanding that you do have power, that you are a child of God.”
“I talk about my mother. I talk about the struggles of watching her having to raise me. My father left before I even came out of the womb, and how that defined me, how that affected me as a person to watch her struggle through life. [I] talk about the man who married her and decided to take care of someone else’s child, which is really hard to do. Kudos to those men who marry women with children, that’s not easy to do.”
“I talked about, you know, my uncle who was my inspiration my Uncle Skip, teaching me how to play basketball and meeting me out there [on the court].”
Her uncle worked a graveyard shift and would meet her after his shift was over to play on the courts in Bayonne.
“You’re born into this world and things are stacked up against you, but God put those people in your life who help you navigate and who will help you get to the place that he wants. He wants you to get and ultimately reach the goals that you want to, but you’ve got to follow the breadcrumbs, and you’ve got to stay focused.”
On Old Dominion women’s basketball, how Nikki McCray-Penson changed the culture after a downturn in the program
“It was tough for her to take that program to another level….She had a lot of obstacles and to see her come in and make a difference and change the culture, which is basically what she was doing when she was there. It wasn’t so much about her coaching. It was about getting those kids to understand the importance of dedication and commitment and hard work. And when you have to do those types of things it takes away from your being able to really build upon their skills, because you’re working on their life skills, more than working on their basketball skills.”
What she expects from new ODU head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones
I wish her luck. I know she’s going to be somebody who is really going to instill a lot of hard work in that program. I had to guard her when I played against the Sparks. I know how she is as a person; I know how she is as a player. Don’t miss interpret her wanting to work hard for not being a nice person. She is going to require that you work hard, just like Marianne Stanley required, just like Wendy Larry required. I hope that she gets a group of kids in there, who understand that, whose parents understand that, and are willing to work hard and deal with the challenges that they’re going to have to face to bring that program back to it to where it needs to be. And I think that they can do it, but it’s going to take you some take a lot of hard work, especially from the administration.