Life is a journey not a destination, and for the Schimmel family, the journey has taken them to Pueblo country where Cecilee Schimmel is back in the coaching seat.
Schimmel, who coached her daughters, WNBA MVP Shoni Schimmel, and University of Louisville senior Jude Schimmel, in AAU and high school, is getting back to something she loves. She is coaching the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Indian School’s boys basketball program this fall — the team played in the state tournament last season after going 0-27 two years ago.
“What motivated me was that it was a Native environment,” said Schimmel, who was born in Mission on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, and played basketball for the Blue Mountain Junior College in Pendleton, Oregon. “Coaching at Franklin [High School in Portland] was not Native American, and it was different. Yes, you want to win and you work hard to win. But I really like having influence on Indian people and trying to teach them ways to succeed.”
The Schimmels settled in north Idaho after moving to Lapwai on the Nez Perce Reservation a couple of years ago, where Ceci hoped to coach basketball for Lapwai High School. It didn’t quite work out as planned, and the job opening at the Santa Fe Indian School, which is owned by the 19 Pueblo Nations of New Mexico, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Early on, her own basketball career took a turn when she became pregnant with her eldest son Shae at 15. But, Schimmel stresses the importance of getting an education and going to college.
“Sometimes people don’t understand, you can go get an education, experience different things and still be an Indian too,” Schimmel said. “You can have the best of both worlds if you work hard, stay in school and stay out of trouble. With our kids, it was never about the WNBA, the fame the glory. It’s always been about bettering your future, getting an education, seeing the world. If anything else were to come from that, so be it. But the truth is, you’re going to go out and be a hard worker and be successful so you can turn around and help your people.”
As for the X’s and O’s of Santa Fe Indian School boys basketball, they’re making improvements and are going into the holiday tournament with a 6-5 record. Her son Job is a junior this season, and a guard on the team.
Now of course there is still the public image side of the Schimmel family. Schimmel, and her husband, Rick, who is an assistant coach, stick around after games and sign autographs, take pictures with the people, and be a part of Indian Country in any way they can.
“After one of our first games we had coaches and kids come up afterwards. It was a little like a powwow, so it was fun,” Ceci said. “The Laguna tournament was another half hour 40 minutes of pictures and stuff like that. We play Indian teams and I have no problem with that. I’m here not only to coach and teach kids, but to be friends and say nice job and provide encouragement whenever I can.”