As Caitlin Clark adjusts to her first season in the WNBA, very few individuals can relate to the immense pressure and insane expectations she’s saddled with as a “generational talent.”

However, one person who understands all too well is Seimone Augustus. At 14 years old, she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated For Women and the title read: "Is She the Next Michael Jordan? Meet Teen Phenom Seimone Augustus"  

Unlike many teenage phenoms, Augustus actually lived up to the hype. After getting drafted No. 1 overall in the 2006 WNBA Draft, she became a three-time gold medalist, four-time WNBA champion, WNBA Finals MVP, eight-time WNBA All-Star and six-time All-WNBA selection. Her trophy case also includes two EuroCup titles, a Turkish Cup, a EuroCup MVP award, two Naismith Player of the Year awards and two Wooden Awards. 

In recent years, the honors have continued to pile up. Augustus was recently inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She was named to the WNBA's 20th and 25th Anniversary Teams. LSU unveiled a statue in her honor outside of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center – the first female athlete in school history with a statue. And shortly after this interview, Augustus joined Kim Mulkey’s coaching staff at LSU.

Legends Magazine caught up with Augustus to discuss her Hall-of-Fame induction, the state of women’s basketball, her coaching career, her advice for retired athletes and much more.

When Sports Illustrated compared you to Michael Jordan as a teenager, what was that like? How did you deal with the hype and pressure? 

Seimone Augustus: “It was crazy. Obviously, when the Sports Illustrated thing hit, that's when it really went crazy. The weekend that the magazine came out was the weekend of our high-school state championship. We ended up losing and I just remember some of the coaches and players [being like], ‘Oh, she ain't as good as you think.’ And obviously, they’re going to rib you a little bit. But from that point on, I knew I had a bullseye on my back. I was no longer the unknown. People kind of knew me or heard about me, but never really saw me. From then on, it was just like you gotta be on top of your game, you gotta be ready for any little thing. And think about the NCAA during that time; you couldn't accept gifts, you couldn't do this or that, so it was just a lot of stuff that now I had to be more aware of that I didn't have to before. So, I mean, it was pressure, but I think it helped me become a more mature athlete and professional moving forward because I had to think differently than most other athletes. I didn’t have that leisure.”

What advice would you give to Caitlin Clark, JuJu Watkins and other phenoms?

Augustus: “You know what's funny? Those two players are actually handling the pressure better than anyone I've seen (aside from) maybe Candace Parker and some others. But it is just a matter of focus and then just honing in on your game. When you hear the USC coach saying JuJu had a bad game one night and then the next day she's in the gym all night to the point that the security guard was like, ‘Should we call the coach and tell JuJu get out the gym?’ And she's like, ‘No, let JuJu be JuJu…’ You don't really have to say nothing to her because she knows what she needs to do. Caitlin Clark is the same way. Prior to her season, they’re posting the workouts of her at home getting shots up. She’s getting 200-to-300 shots up. Those are players that get it, and that's very rare because it's not a lot of people that get it. If anything, I'd say just try to stay as humble as possible. When I say humble, have an air of confidence about yourself, but keep your head on a swivel and keep your eye on a prize.”

You thrived at every level and accomplished so much throughout your career. Looking back, what is your proudest moment?

Augustus: “My proudest moment would be my first gold medal. It’s crazy. That was the first team where I had their poster on my wall or anything because there was no WNBA at the time, so I was like, ‘I'm going to be on the national team! I'm going to be up there with Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo and all these wonderful women that was on this poster.’ And so when I was able to accomplish that, it was like, ‘Oh, I did it!’ I did exactly what I said I was going to do as a child in my yard practicing. And then, my other proudest moment would probably be winning my first championship in Minnesota after all the hardships that I faced prior to that – injuries, losing, you name it. Those were probably my two proudest moments in my playing career.”

How does winning a gold medal compare to winning a WNBA championship?

Augustus: “When you think about a gold medal and the dominance that [Team USA] has had over the women's basketball world on an international level, that's way more intense. And we don't have much time together; we may have two or three weeks before we have to head over and play all these games against these countries, where some of their players don't even report to the W if it's an Olympic year so they can prepare with their national team and get ready to come and try to beat us. That journey is a lot more stringent. It is harder both mentally and physically. You got to figure out how to get some team cohesion right away. But the best thing about it is you’re considered one of the top-12 players in the world. I think that's what kind of distinguishes it for me. Like, ‘Oh, okay, I was considered one of the top-12 players in the world.’ And I did that repeatedly for however many gold medals I got. I played at a high level for a really long time and continued our dominance throughout my time. But then on a W level, it's like these are draft picks and this team is kind of assembled through free agency. We have a longer journey together. And on that journey, every day is different – the ups and downs. And that one means more in terms of a family-type environment, like, ‘Look at all this stuff we had to go through to get here!’ Both of them have that different feel, but like I said, both are meaningful.”

I love that you had Team USA posters on your wall as a kid and then went on to win three gold medals with them and become part of the selection committee. How do you think your younger self would react to that?

Augustus: “My childhood self would be like, ‘You did it! You did it!’ (laughs) And the fact that I was able to continue to do it consistently over time, I would be a little 8-year-old, 9-year-old with my heart in my chest poked out. But then when you think about after ball and being a part of the selection committee, I never in a million years would've thought that I would be a part of the process of trying to help select the next team that's going to potentially go off and win another gold medal. But that's how life works! As much as I wanted to pull away from ball and try to go do something else, basketball just kept reeling me back in like, ‘Nah, come back! Come back!’ So when those things happen, you have to honor it and respect it. It is a great opportunity. You’re basically setting up the next generation to do what you've done.”

With your coaching and role on the selection committee, you are impacting the next generation — even more so than you’ve already done. How important is that to you?

Augustus: “I got bit by the coaching bug. After getting into that and seeing how I can communicate and pass my knowledge on and that they would actually receive it, then I was like, ‘Alright, yeah, [this is for me].’ We do have to keep the game at a certain level in order for us to continue to grow and prosper. Well, who's going to be the ones passing the knowledge on? We have no say in when we pass the torch. When you retire, it's over – it’s time for the next generation. Now, it's like… who's grooming them though? I feel like I'm in that position. I feel like I have that voice or at least that respect to be able to help as much as I can. So, obviously, they put me in that position and I accepted the role [on the selection committee] to be able to do what's necessary to keep us on top.”

It has to be difficult narrowing down Team USA’s roster with how many talented players are in the pool. It’s a great problem to have, but how tough is that?

Augustus: “New players are entering the pool and as the older players – the legends of the game who are starting to retire and leave – you just want to see who's next to take that torch or take on that leadership role. So you have to evaluate everything from somebody's leadership abilities to their skills. You know what their skill set is, but what else can you add to the team? Can you make adjustments and adapt with this team? You might be the leading scorer of your team, but out here you might have to be the best defender or the best rebounder or whatever other assets you can bring to the table for this team. It's quite the process. Obviously, I'm the baby on the committee. This is new to me. You got other people who have been around the game for a very long time, and so I just lean heavily on their knowledge and expertise of the game, analytics, and all the stuff that we use to evaluate people.”

Congratulations on getting inducted into the Hall of Fame! What did that mean to you to have your career celebrated?

Augustus: “It is weird for me. I never was a player that celebrated a whole lot of stuff. When we won the championship, I celebrated right then and the next 24-48 hours, and then it was over – it was onto the next thing. It was the same way with the gold medals. Now, it's just this celebration of your career and I'm like, oh, now I got to sit down and think about all the stuff that I did and write these speeches and talk about it and basically intro myself to new people that may not know who I am. I'm just like, ‘Wow.’ But to receive all these flowers and all this honor and to see how people speak highly of you and what you were doing while you were doing it… because we never really looked left or right! For me, I never worried about external stuff; I was just focused on what was at hand. Now, I actually get to take a deep breath and just be like, ‘Oh yeah, I did do all of that!’ … [I was always thinking] ‘onto the next.’ We've been onto the next for so long, but now we have to be still and receive all the gifts of what we've accomplished.”

In another interview, you said that the moment you realized Bill Russell is in the Hall of Fame twice — once as a player and once as a coach — that became your new goal. What would that mean to you?   

Augustus: “Yeah, I knew coaches went in, but seeing that he went in twice as a player and as a coach, it just clicked. I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could do that! Okay, cool!’ As a former athlete, we're always looking for the next thing to push ourselves toward our goals and set it. So I was like, ‘Alright, cool. If coaching is what I'm going to do, then shit, I'm going to be the best at it!’ I'm going to push myself to be the best at it or at least try to, so now I have a goal that I want to attain and I'm going to go after it as best I can.”

In addition to the Hall-of-Fame induction, LSU honored you by building a statue outside Pete Maravich Assembly Center! How did that come together and what was your reaction when you found out?

Augustus: “Man, Coach Mulkey brought it up. She was just like, ‘You deserve a statue! I don't know why you ain't been had a statue here!’ She went on this rampage or whatever, and I was like, ‘Well, thank you, Coach Mulkey.’ I just kind of blew by the conversation. But then the next thing I know, it goes to the board! It goes here, it goes there, and boom: statue! And I'm like, ‘Whoa!’ It felt like within a week's time or whatever, this all happened. And I'm like, ‘What the… A statue?! What that look like?’ And then you start going through the process with the sculptor and [they’re like], ‘Well, what do you want to look like?’ I'm like, ‘I've never ever in my life thought about no statue!’ The jersey retirement? You are like, ‘Yeah, hang my jersey in the rafters!’ But to put a sculpture of you out forever?! Nah, you ain't processing that. I'm like, ‘What?!’ I’m down there with Pistol Pete, Bob Pettit and Shaq! You look around at all these statues and you’re looking at what they’ve done in basketball in college and the professional ranks — everywhere they’ve went, they’ve done things — and it’s just like shit! But… I also have that same resume! I just didn’t put myself in that light! And it could be because you never see females in that light. We are just now starting to get that, with the emergence of Caitlin Clark and all the people that’s bringing the visibility. But [I] never really saw [myself] like that.”

When you look at Clark’s emergence and the record ratings and ticket sales, what are your thoughts on the state of women’s basketball?

Augustus: “I'm so excited. I'm so happy! Because I think about the legends and OGs of the game – the Sheryl Swoopes of the world – they've been waiting for this to happen. You honestly think that you're going to fall into that cycle of, ‘Alright, when are people going to realize that women's basketball is great?’ And for me, I just recently retired and it happened overnight, like boom. And we was like, ‘Goddamn, I told you! We told y'all that this was amazing!’ We had a great product! People just had to invest in it or just see it. Obviously, Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers and the collegiate game has done a great job, but even when you think about the COVID year when we was in the Wubble and people being able to see a little bit more of the WNBA and its players and really get the stories and we’re fighting for the Senate and all this stuff that was happening, you could see it kind of brewing. And Caitlin and the rest of 'em just kind of took off – the rivalries and what she was doing, all the individual accolades and stuff like that. Now, people are like, ‘Yeah, women's basketball!’ We’re like, ‘We've been told y'all! We've been told you!’ But I'm super excited. I can't wait to see what the next few years bring for JuJu, Hannah Hidalgo at Notre Dame… I just can't wait. Even seeing Caitlin in a couple of days at her first preseason game, it's like, ‘Alright! This is exciting! What's going to happen?’ All eyes is on Indiana and Caitlin Clark, and rightfully so! Their team has been dormant for a very long time – it hasn't made the playoffs and hasn't really had much excitement. You could go into that arena and sit wherever you wanted, and now the season tickets are sold out! It's amazing.”

When you think about the future of women’s basketball, what do you think is in store over the next five-to-10 years?

Augustus: “I think we're going to be talking about expansion because we’re seeing it happen now with the Bay Area team coming. Then, there's four or five other prospects. I heard Houston yesterday… the Houston owner said something about possibly bringing the Comets back. So [the WNBA] will definitely be expanding to possibly 16 teams or more in the next five-to-10 years. Pay equity. I think people have been talking about the shares – getting that 50% share for the players. If they get that 50% share, we are looking at million-dollar contracts, which we rightly deserve, as opposed to $70,000 contracts or a few hundred-thousand-dollar contracts. I think in the next few years, we'll be talking about pay equity, expansion of the league, and [what happens] with the CBA and the next television deal. Are we going to stay attached to the NBA and be a package like we have been? Or are we going to separate ourselves from them and go as our own independent entity now? There's going to be a lot of discussions around that, and that's even more money that we add to the pool to be able to pay the players. And the player experience has to get better across the board for most teams because it isn't the same. You see the investment with Seattle, you see the investment with Vegas. Minnesota has always had their own situation with the Wolves that was very good, New York [too]. But every other team has to get there.”

You’ve said that when you retired, you had to find a passion outside of basketball. I’ve talked to a lot of retired players who said the same thing. What are some passions or hobbies you’ve discovered since then?

Augustus: “Since coaching looks like it's my path, I'm like, ‘Alright, I see all these coaches and they're stressed the hell out!’ All they do is watch video all day. All season, they're trying to figure out this and that. So I was like, ‘I need something that's going to combat that.’ If I'm going to be in a stressful environment, I need some calm somewhere, so I'm into gardening right now. I took it in high school a little bit, so I'm going back to it. I’m out here planting vegetables and flowers and things like that. It still gives me that activity, but it's also peaceful. It's serene. I don't have to stress about if this seed is going to grow or if I can make this flower stay alive, you know? Other than gardening, it is [the video game] Grand Theft Auto for me. That's my thing. I'm just now getting into the online and all that stuff, but they’re always going to get a few of my dollars!”

What advice would you give to players who are nearing retirement or just recently retired?

Augustus: “I would say start to figure out a routine because that's the biggest struggle coming out of playing. I’d be sitting in the house like ‘Alright, well, I need to work out.’ I'm used to working out every day, every day, every day, so I added that as a part of my routine. Alright, now I need something to exercise my mind. Now, coaching helps with that, so I'm watching videos, studying different coaches, trying to figure out what type of coach I'm going to be. You need to find a routine because if not, we're just sitting in the house. I had a period where I was just like, ‘I don't know where to go or what to do.’ I would get in my car and ride around and burn gas just to get out the house. But you have to figure out, even if it's not another passion, what do you want to do? Because we've been giving, giving, giving to the game for so long that we don't even know what we like or want to do at times. So, find your routine and stick to it.”

And buy Grand Theft Auto?

Augustus: “Yeah, and buy Grand Theft Auto! That’s it. That’s really all you need, some Grand Theft! (laughs)”

Did you always know that you were going to get into coaching when your playing days ended?

Augustus: “I was running so far away from it! I literally thought when I finished ball that I would go and venture off into something else, like I would take this gardening thing to another level or something. Like, I’m about to go be a farmer! (laughs) Literally the day I retired, Coach [Derek] Fisher was like, ‘I got a spot on the staff, if you want it.’ And it just happened so quickly, I'm like, ‘Yeah, I still want to be around the game.’ I stayed on for two years and I got bit by the bug. I can literally remember the play. I instructed somebody to do something and they did it, and me and her both [lit up]. I was just like, ‘Alright, I think this might be my thing!’ So, yeah, I am stuck in coaching. I didn't want to because all the stuff that we’ve talked about, you’re bringing that with you, so people automatically assume that you're going to have some major success right away. And you're like, ‘Ah, it don't work like that. I got to figure myself out. I got to figure out what my philosophies are. I got to figure out my team. I got to figure out a lot of stuff before I see success.’ It doesn't just happen overnight. Not everybody can Becky Hammon that thing and come in and get two championships! It takes a little time! I think that was my fear – that people were going to place so much on you, like, ‘Oh, you was a Hall-of-Famer, so you should be able to win some championships.’ And I'm like, ‘Geez…’ But I ain't never run away from a challenge, so I might as well try.”

Did your perception of coaches change after you started coaching?

Augustus: “To be honest, I didn't even think about what the coaches do. I'm just like, ‘Put me through whatever y'all are going to put me through so I can get out of here!’ (laughs) But then when I got to the other side, I really understood why they would get so pissed off when you didn't follow the scouting report or do what they said. Like Coach [Cheryl] Reeve in Minny, sometimes we just weren’t locked into the gameplan and we’d do some other shit on the court, and she's like, ‘You gotta do what I said to do! Otherwise, I don’t know if it works!’ And I'm like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ But now, knowing the amount of time they put in watching video, breaking it down, trying to figure out what plays each team is going to run, figuring out what plays we need to run against these teams, analytics, and all this shit… As a coach my two years, I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, y'all not watching video?! Hold on. I watched way too much video for y'all not to even take a peek at it!’ So, I appreciated that. Now, I have a newfound respect for all coaches and the work that they put in to prepare their team for a game.”

You put out a book called: Hoop Muses: An Insider’s Guide to Pop Culture and the (Women’s) Game. Can you tell me about it?

Augustus: “Myself, Kate Fagan and Sophia Chang put this book together, and it is funny how things work. We put this book out because it didn't exist, and it basically details the history of women's basketball from its inception all the way to what we believe would be the future – like the first $100 million contract. And what are the chances that we are at the future now? Like, we're hitting that! The only thing is we’re trying to bridge the gap between the high-school game, collegiate game and professional game. A lot of these kids, it breaks my heart that they don't know Sheryl Swoopes or Cynthia Cooper or some of these older players. Some of the players are even like, ‘Who is Diana Taurasi?’ I'm like, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. What are you talking about?!’ That means you don't know the history of the game! This book will give you the history of the game, so you can get up to par and where you need to be. If you're trying to be in the WNBA, I want you to be able to say a WNBA player [as your favorite player]. That's another thing that's disheartening for me. When they’re like, ‘Oh, who’s your favorite player?’ They're like, ‘Ah, LeBron.’ Now, granted, I love the NBA! But I'm like, ‘Nah, you supposed to be saying Caitlin Clark or whoever!’ You’re supposed to be saying [a WNBA player]! If that's where you’re trying to be, that's who you’re supposed to be calling out. So, I would say: pick that book up, educate yourself, and motivate yourself.”