Saturday, April 23, 2011

We’re Jealous

Our neighbors a few houses down were Caps fans and Caps season ticket holders long before it was cool. And long before the Caps were Rockin’ the Red in a sold-out Verizon Center, as they did this afternoon. We’re really happy for them today . . . for our neighbors, and for the Caps. But we confess, we’re also a wee bit jealous too.

Ted Leonsis had a long-term plan for the Caps; he stuck with it (even engaged in a little fisticuffs to defend it), and now it’s paying off.

Ted has a plan for another of his teams as well. Last Sunday, after the conclusion of the Wizards’ dismal 23-59 season, Ted told the Washington Post that the team nonetheless was “ahead of [his] expectations.” And he also went on record saying that Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Flip Saunders would both be welcomed back next season. Because, as Ted says, “change has to be responsible.”

According to the Post’s Michael Lee, Ted was “convinced that the faults of the Washington [men’s] basketball team were rooted in a lack of continuity and a failure to commit to a strategy.” The article pointed out that before Ted took over the team, the Wizards had been led by 13 different coaches in 32 seasons. To his credit, Ted doesn’t appear to believe that a revolving door of coaches is any way to build a team, or to win. He has a plan for long-term success and he stands behind it, even when the team is playing in front of lots of empty seats.

You know where we’re going with this, right? We look at our neighbors today and are really happy for them. And we know that being long-term supporters of a frequently losing team makes winning (like today) that much sweeter.

And we relate to that. Because, as Mystics fans from a time when there was only a hope, and then a promise, of a WNBA franchise in Washington, from a time when the team still had no name, we stuck with them through 10 coaches in 11 seasons . . . and a whole lot of losing.

But finally, starting in 2009, thanks to what we believed to be a commitment from management to a strategy, the hallmark of which was supposed to be continuity, the Mystics put together back-to-back seasons with the same GM, the same Coach, the same core of talented young players, and were definitely showing signs of significant improvement. Remarkably, in year two of the new strategy (and even without the services of their top performer, Alana Beard), the team managed to finish the regular season on top of the Eastern Conference, and with a franchise-record-setting 22 wins to boot. That was sweet.

Yes, of course we were disappointed that our team lost in the first round of the playoffs . . . but so did the Caps last season. And look how happy the Caps made our neighbors – and all their fans – today!

But as pleased as we are for the Caps fans, we admit to feeling a little cheated, as Mystics fans. We keep asking ourselves the same question: why couldn’t the top management of our team stick to the plan?

Perhaps the Mystics’ Sheila Johnson didn’t have enough confidence in her own abilities to sell the team’s success. But if so, she was wrong. Because just a month after Angela and Julie were effectively shown the door, negotiations with Inova got underway, and now the Mystics have a “marquee partner” and jersey sponsor. And a good sponsor at that.

But in terms of the front office brain trust and the players on the court, the Mystics, to quote a recent headline in the Washington Post, have undergone “a total makeover,” not something expected – or warranted – after the most successful season ever. All the result of a failure to stick with a strategy, a failure of continuity.

Trudi has many good players on her roster (and she’s got Alana back). The team may do very well this summer. We hope so, for the sake of the players and the fans. But the team is once again starting a season with a new GM, a new Head Coach (not to mention a new PG) . . . the only thing NOT new is the lack of continuity. That’s something Mystics fans are very familiar with. And, once again, we're left to wait and wonder whether it’ll all come together.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases (Happy Caps fans . . . but not our neighbors. Too young!)


At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted said a lot of those same things about the Mystics last year. Maybe that was before he "outsourced" running the team to Sheila.

At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Ted always outsourced running the team to Sheila because she was approached about the idea from Abe Pollin. Let's say Ted wanted to be the primary caretaker of the team. I don't know if Sheila wants to give it up because of this and just be a major minority partner.

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still not understanding. Why have the team if you don't care about the team putting out a winning product. Taylor and Plank produced a winning product. It's all about the color green at the end of the day. Clearly women's basketball will never bring in the doe like men's teams, but winning does bring in more money...even with women's sports. From a business standpoint, the decisions made by the mystics org are mind boggling...just plain dumb.

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Sue/Durham said...

I admit I still don't get why gazillionaire Sheila Johnson didn't just donate the difference in $$ and stick with the plan. When the plan is so obviously working - and faster than expected, why the H did she trash the whole thing? The Styx had all the building blocks in place, most especially a stable GM and Coach plus young and future stars of the league. I mean, jeez louizze, SHE could have sponsored the team and we'd have Lindsey, Alana, Lang etc sporting whatever the name of the luxury condos are she owns in Florida. I'm quite sure Angela could have gotten Anosike from Minny for a bag of balls just like Trudi did. LOL at "new point guard". New to DC? In her prime? Way too late for that. From top backcourt to worst in the league just. like. that.

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, good point. It's not like Taylor or Plank were making millions of dollars. Hardly. Johnson surely could have chipped in the difference. I mean, really, what is wrong with Sheila Johnson? What is wrong with the Mystics organization? I am new to being a Mystics fan. First time I bought season tickets was last year. I've followed them but not like you guys have on this blog site. From what I've seen, I'm left shaking my head. Really, it's mind boggling. I'm surprised the Mystics haven't folded. I'm glad they haven't for the young ladies living their dream. But, really, WhAT is WRONG With the Mystics brass?

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Sue/Durham said...

BC's: Great points about Leonsis spouting about the benefits of stability and sticking with the plan. So, we are all left wondering why the Styx went back to same ol', same ol' throw all the cards in and start from scratch?

When Shock fans are feeling sorry for Styx fans, you know you're in some deep doo-doo.

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BOO WHO. We are stuck with a lousy GM in MR. BIBB; a inexperienced OWNER in S. Johnson; a losing COACH in LACEY; and what is left but a fired coach and has been in M. STANLEY. What a group.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great commentary Basketcases. I agree completely. I am left to root for the emotional commitment to the Mystics has been drastically reduced. And I'm a Founding Fan like you...faithful every season...
but enough is enough.

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, here's what Ted recently said about the Mystics in his blog:

Credit Where Credit is Due
April 13th, 2011

Our new coach and GM at the Mystics articulated a plan of reinvention to us. It focused on building a bigger team; a team more committed to defense; and a team that could go deep in rotation as the season grinded on into the playoffs. We are now rebuilt - quickly - as a bigger, tougher team. We will need to gel as the season unfolds but we have changed the makeup of our team.

I believe she is delivering and as a combo GM and coach she is able to draft and trade for the kind of players she personally wants to coach on the court. Trudi Lacey is an inspiration. I always feel uplifted when talking to her!

I am also happy to report that the Inova Health Systems deal was a godsend to our organization. It gives us a great marquee partner. It shows faith in the WNBA by a major and sophisticated sponsor and it helps us to generate significant new revenues which we needed to show viability as a business.

I am excited about this coming season for the Mystics. I am proud of our front office and for the dedication Sheila Johnson shows to the franchise.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger BasketCases said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thanks for sharing Ted’s blog post with us.

Double-standard? Washington spin?

Or both?

-- BC

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That blog post might be the single most ignorant WNBA related thing I have ever read in my life. If Trudi Lacey genuinely believes those statements, she needs to never work in women's basketball again.

And i'd just like to point out that Harding and Smith are two of the toughest players and best defenders in the league. Smith may be arguably the toughest player and best defender in the HISTORY of the sport.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Stern at today's press conference:

"Sheila Johnson is a passionate owner. You're able to fundamentally able to leverage the resources of the Capitals and the Wizards."

Seems to me that the events of this past off-season show that Sheila was denied the resources of the Caps and Wizards, and told to sink or swim on her own.

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, really. I don't think they care about the Mystics. If they did, they would throw a few bucks over to pay for their winning coach and GM to stay. I actually don't understand it at all from a business standpoint. If you don't care, why not just get rid of the team. To pay (and they aren't paying alot) anything to the team to be bad or so-so, is odd. If you are going to have the team exist, why not put your best product out there so you can bring in some money. It might not be alot of money but something. the whole thing is just weird. What I hate about womens basketball is they don't talk about it either. So you never know what really happened. In Men's sports, you know...why certain things happened.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most interesting part of the blog to me was characterization of the Inova sponsorship as a "godsend." Not a very businessy word. Maybe Sheila had to show "viability" of the Mystics very quickly (like this past fall/winter) or fold the franchise.

I still think she behaved really badly, particularly toward the fans, but if she was given an ultimatum by Ted to make it work financially or fold it, maybe that explains why she was so cutthroat about squeezing Angela and getting rid of Julie when she wouldn't do the GM/coach thing. Maybe she had to prove her stuff to the Monumental partners as a cost cutter.

The irony of course is if she had known she'd land the Inova deal, she could have kept Angela and Julie, which would have probably resulted in keeping Lindsey (I have doubts about being able to keep Katie under any scenario). But that's water under the bridge....

It'll be very interesting to see how Sheila and Ted respond if this season is a bomb, which it could very well be. Will Trudi still be "inspiring"? I seriously doubt it.

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need a point guard! Who is going to throw the ball I to Lang. Alana has proved that she can't carry this team. No Monique, no Linsday. We need a point guard!

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just opened an email from the Mystics talking about starting a season ticket holder advisory board. Too little, too late. Wonder what it means.

At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe they are trying to set up a "house union" they can trot out when the new Prez comes to visit.

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha! An advisory board. That's a joke.

At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the hell happened to the MVP Program?!?!?!

At 8:58 PM, Blogger fr mike said...

PEACE! I can onlhy hope the Mystics success this year ( and always) and continuity for the future. Thanks for your blog.

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anybody know where I can get the DVD from this year's womens final 4? I remember years ago I bought the DVD when MD was in the final four. This year's was so good, I want to get the DVD. Anyone know where you can purchase this online?

At 5:29 PM, Blogger BasketCases said...

To the two "anonymous" posters whose comments we have deleted:

Anon 1: If you can't cheer for a Mystics player because of where she went to school, then you're on the wrong blog. We don't make those kinds of distinctions here.

Anon 2: If your "comment" is longer than our original blog post, you have violated one of our many arbitrary and frequently changing secret rules.

-- BC

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want to know inspiring? Angela and Julie! We were inspired along with being believers. Why get rid of something that was working? First job for the advisory board-find a way to get back "the plank"!

At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Ted needs to revise his plan for the Caps.


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