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!)