FORMER HAWK HOOPS STAR TEACHES AND CALMS HIS WAY TO A WNBA CHAMPIONSHIP
Talvin Skinner at the 2004 UMES Hall of Fame induction.
Talvin Skinner at the 2004 UMES Hall of Fame induction.

Aug. 4, 2005

PRINCESS ANNE, MD - Talvin Skinner, who is among the most famous of all the great athletic talents to pass through the halls at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), has continued to expand upon his legacy as he has helped guide the WNBA's Seattle Storm to their first ever WNBA championship.

"After the 2003 season the coaching staff was left with a big desire to win. We had to look in the mirror and say we blew it," said Skinner in a recent interview before the Art Shell Celebrity Golf Classic. "There was a lot of `if I hads...' but before the 2004-2005 season I saw Head Coach Anne Donovan and I asked, `Are you ready?"

Apparently she and her staff, including Skinner, were ready. They led the Seattle Storm to their first ever WNBA Championship. Whether it was Donovan's assistance as a coach on the Olympic Team, the new combination of talent on the roster, or the coaching of her and her staff, Skinner was a part of a World Championship, the first Hawk to earn a World Championship in Basketball with the exception of Joe Pace who won an NBA Title as a player with the Washington Bullets. Pace, however, transferred from UMES to finish his college career at Coppin State College.

As a volunteer assistant coach for the Storm, his official title is Player Development Specialist, Skinner helps the team in a more mental sense. At times the players will get very frustrated with their play on the floor and he will be there to give some calming advice, getting the players focused on what they need to do. With both collegiate and NBA experience, Skinner has learned many of the skills needed to be a success on the floor using mental toughness as well as athletic ability.

In an interview with Wendy Carpenter of the News Tribune forward Adia Barnes spoke of Skinner's impact. "He coaches us on the bench," Sometimes you get caught up in games, you get disgusted on the court, but he's always behind us, saying, 'Slow down, and do this,' and when you cool down, the little things he sees gives us a different perspective. It's not from a heat-of-the-moment perspective on the court. And that really helps."

Skinner has some experience to draw on.

In the 1972-73 season at UMES, Skinner led the NAIA Championships in rebounding as he pulled down 78 rebounds in five games (15.6 rebounds a game). That mark stands as the eighth highest average in NAIA Championship history (1963 to 2003).

In the 1973-74 season, Skinner and the Fighting Hawks made national history as they became the first ever Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to earn an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) post-season basketball tournament. As Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Champions the Fighting Hawks defeated Manhattan College in the opening round 84-81, but then fell in the quarterfinal round to Jacksonville by only two points.

For his play the 1973-74 MEAC Tournament, where UMES earned its first of only two conference championships since joining the conference in 1970, Skinner was named the Most Outstanding Player.

"I owe a lot to people like John Bates and Joe Robinson. Their tutelage helped mold me into the player I was, especially in college. When I got to the NBA I missed that. To be successful there you have to have someone help build your confidence and teach you the ropes. I think most athletes are not prepared for the rigors of pro sports," said Skinner. "Maybe that would have helped me stay a little longer in the NBA."

Following the 1973-74 season, Skinner entered both the ABA and NBA draft's. The New York Nets of the ABA took Skinner in the fifth round with the 35th overall pick. However, Skinner choose to accept the Seattle Supersonics invitation to join its NBA franchise as he was selected in the third round, 44th overall, just four picks behind NBA Hall of Famer, George "The Iceman" Gervin.

Unfortunately, Skinner only played two seasons with the Supersonics making only a limited impact on the floor, even though he did make a huge impact on the franchise. In his rookie season, Skinner played in 73 games, averaging 21.6 minutes a game. He averaged 4.8 points a game, 41% shooting from the field, and pulled down 4.7 rebounds a game.

In his second season, Skinner played in 72 games, averaging 17 minutes a contest. The limited minutes did little to minimize his effort on the floor as he scored 4.3 points a game as he shooting improved to over 46%. He also totaled 264 rebounds (3.67 rpg).

As one of the all-time fan favorites in Seattle with his always-identifiable afro-haircut, Skinner still remains a popular figure in the Seattle area. His hairstyle during the mid-70's was listed among the top haircuts in franchise history and is still remembered by fans young and old.

In recent years, Skinner has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to UMES basketball with his collegiate and professional successes. In 2002, the MEAC conference elected him to their Hall-of-Fame. He is one of only six persons inducted to the Hall of Fame that are from UMES.

In 2004, Skinner along with all of his 1973-74 teammates and coaches were elected to the UMES Hall of Fame for their season that resulted in an invitation to the NIT postseason basketball tournament.

Skinner, who has worked for Boeing in Seattle for many years and has held season tickets with the Storm since the teams first season in 2000, has followed the team's progress very closely. As a volunteer coach he is vital to building the team's confidence as both individual talents and a team that truly plays as a unit.

This philosophy made a huge impact on Seattle's run to the title in 2004, though he will never divert the attention from what they have accomplished by accepting any credit for the teams successes. "I just help where I can, Coach Donovan and her staff and of course our players deserve all the credit. I try to lend a hand where I can, help teach and refresh the basics. Executing the basics will take you a long way in basketball, Coach Bates and Joe [Robinson] also taught me that," Skinner added. "I really just appreciate them letting me be around. It's not about me; it's about them. I have learned coaching from [Donovan and her staff]. You have to be prepared to be a coach, personally prepared."

Storm General Manager, Billy McKinney spoke of Skinner to Wendy Carpenter of the News Tribune, ""He brings experience of playing at the top level," McKinney said. "Not just the physical side, but the mental side. A lot of teams in the league are missing the element of teaching. Talvin has really helped in that regard. He has an aura about him - he's very positive and has a calming effect."

His advice to the young athlete at his alma mater or any college is to follow your dreams. "You have to have a big dream and a big desire," he said. "The worst thing in sports is to wonder `what if...'"