A friendly asylum for a couple of crazy DC-area women's basketball fans, where we share some news, some opinions, as well as a little of almost anything else that our demented minds dredge up having to do with the WNBA, the Maryland Terrapins, or any other team, player or character associated with the world of women's hoops.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The BCs have been Mystics season ticketholders since the inaugural season of 1998. (Our names are inscribed on the Founding Fans wall in the Verizon Center.) In the 13 seasons preceding 2011, we thought we’d seen it all – all the coaching changes, all the front office changes, all the player drama, all the exciting and sometimes puzzling draft picks, and naturally all the ups and downs that have made up the gestalt of the Mystics experience.
Over the years, we’ve suffered through many a miserable season. But without a doubt, the recently concluded Mystics 2011 season was, for us, the very worst ever. Worse even than the 3-27 inaugural season? Yes. Having a women’s professional basketball team in our Nation’s capital was all new and exciting. There were large and enthusiastic crowds, and, most important, there was the promise of better things to come. We had fun. Worse even than the season of 2008, which we used to think of as the franchise’s low point? Yes. Because most of the misery and the failure of this season, unlike 2008, was the result of self-inflicted wounds. This season need never have happened this way, and should never have happened this way.
The October Massacre
The unmitigated failure of this season was brought on, first and foremost, by the October Massacre. In the history of professional sports, has there ever been another team that finished first in its conference, with a franchise-record number of wins, after years of mostly disappointing performances and multiple (mostly unsuccessful) coaches, which then turned around and effectively pushed the General Manager and Head Coach (who engineered the team’s turnaround) out the door? All because the team’s mega-wealthy owners decided to save a little money? If it’s happened before, the BCs have never heard of it. Maybe that’s why, nearly a year later, we still find it incomprehensible. And unforgiveable.
A Quick Hire
The stupidity and meanness of that October decision (let’s not forget, those were two very hardworking human beings who lost jobs that they loved that month) were then compounded by the quick hire of a cost-saving combo GM/HC. After Sheila & Co. reorganized the GM and HC jobs into a single position in order to save money, did they do a national search to find the best possible person for that redefined job? Not that they’ve ever said. Instead, they immediately promoted the previous season’s second assistant coach (you know, the one the WNBA didn't even allow to sit on the bench), Trudi Lacey, to the new job.
So what qualified Trudi for this new position? Well, as a matter of fact, Trudi had actually done the combo GM/HC job before. She served in that capacity with the Charlotte Sting beginning in 2003. Her tenure in that job went something like this: after Trudi inherited the Eastern Conference’s 2nd place team in 2003, Trudi’s team lost two more games than the team had lost the year before, but still managed to finish in 2nd place. The following season, 2004, saw GM/HC Trudi’s Sting finish with a losing record and drop to 5th (of 6 teams) in the East -- and miss the playoffs. And then the 2005 season arrived. That year’s Sting team opened the season with 3 wins . . . and 21 losses, under GM/HC Trudi’s leadership.
That was the résumé -- and the legacy -- that Trudi brought to the Mystics’ GM/HC job this summer. Sheila & Co. were looking for a quick hire -- and for someone willing to do both jobs -- so Trudi got the nod. In the press teleconference that lives in infamy (Sheila: “Let me idiot proof this for you . . .”) following Trudi’s hiring, Sheila was asked whether Trudi had what it took. And Sheila famously replied, “everything is a crap shoot.”
Grade F on the 2011 Draft
The BCs don’t know how anyone could give GM Trudi’s 2011 draft anything other than a failing grade. Although Trudi had two first round draft picks, they were both for naught. First, as part of the Lindsey Harding trade, Trudi directed the Atlanta Dream to use their own first round pick to draft Ta’Shia Phillips and send her to the Mystics; Trudi then used the Mystics’ own pick to draft Victoria Dunlap. She used her second round pick to draft Karima Christmas. Trudi waived both Phillips and Christmas later in the season. Karima was picked up off waivers by Tulsa, and Ta’Shia by New York. Because the two players were waived, the Mystics got nothing in return for them. Meanwhile, Dunlap spent virtually her entire rookie season parked on the bench. We’re not really sure whether GM Trudi just isn’t very good at evaluating talent, or whether HC Trudi isn’t very good at using the talent she’s been given. In any event, the BCs rate GM Trudi’s 2011 draft an “F.”
What Strategic Plan?
Well before the WNBA’s free agent signing period began in January, and months before the college draft in April, the Mystics knew that Mo Currie was expected to be out for the entire season, recovering from her ACL injury. But what wasn’t known -- with certainty -- was how well Alana Beard would be able to play after returning from a potentially career-ending injury, having missed an entire year of basketball.
Meanwhile, early in the off-season – after the October Massacre – word spread in WNBA circles that Lindsey Harding no longer wanted to play for Washington. Katie Smith was a free agent and her return to the Mystics was also uncertain.
So in light of all these off-season developments, what was the Mystics’ strategic plan going into the 2011 season? GM/HC Trudi announced that she was rebuilding with youth. No veteran free agents; not a mix of young and old; the strategy was to focus on youth. Thus, Nakia Sanford was not offered a contract (she signed as a free agent with Phoenix) and Chasity Melvin was cut in training camp. GM Trudi stacked the team with rookies and traded her 2012 first round draft pick to Minnesota for Nicky Anosike, a player with 3 years of WNBA experience. GM Trudi executed her plan, assembling the pieces for the future of the franchise.
But then, right in the middle of the season, GM Trudi totally abandoned her plan. She cut two of her four rookies, including first rounder Ta’Shia Phillips. Then she replaced them with an 11-year veteran, DeMya Walker, and a 4th year player, Kerri Gardin, both of whom had been cut by the Connecticut Sun (Kerri before the season began, and DeMya after 10 games). Of the two remaining rookies, GM/HC Trudi then left one of them – Victoria Dunlap -- on the bench, while Crystal Langhorne finished in a virtual dead-heat for most minutes played per game in the WNBA (Sylvia Fowles edged her by 0.3 minutes). Lang continued to play 30-plus minutes per game even after the Mystics were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. And Vicky continued to sit on the bench.
Plan A, rebuilding with youth, obviously wasn’t working.
When you are an owner who is fortunate enough to have two consummate professionals like former GM Angela Taylor and former HC Julie Plank on your team, who – by your own admission – produced positive results, and ahead of schedule (we were at the airport)-- then you MUST find a way to keep them on board. You do NOT allow what, to you (a person of incredible wealth), is for all intents and purposes an inconsequential amount of money, to undermine the stability of the prior two seasons and derail the strategic plan. Yet that’s exactly what Sheila & Co. did. They failed miserably as owners and managers. They failed the players. And they failed the fans.
Big and Biggest Losers
Of course, the players suffered a great deal: emotionally (losing night after night takes its toll), physically (playing league-leading minutes can wear a player down), and, financially (for the first time in 3 years, no playoff money in their paychecks). We count them among this season’s big losers . . . and we’re not referring to their win-loss record.
In our opinion, the biggest losers, though, were the fans. Mystics fans have been loyal to a fault. Mystics fans harbor a deep emotional attachment to their team. They are used to being disappointed, but they are not used to being blind-sided or betrayed. And that’s how the BCs felt (and still do) and how many other loyal fans felt (they’ve told us) about the bait-and-switch that Sheila & Co. pulled on all of us last October.
Where Do They Go From Here?
As sad as we feel to say this going into the 15th season, the franchise needs to start over. Sheila & Co. need to acknowledge the huge mistake they made last fall. They need to acknowledge it to the fans. Most important, they need to acknowledge it to Angela and Julie.
Then Mystics management need to do exactly what they did after the 2008 season, which resulted in Angela and Julie being hired. They need to do a careful and considered national search, and they need to find the best possible person to become the new GM, and that person needs to be given carte blanche to find and hire the best possible HC. (And, in this process, in our opinion, Angela and Julie deserve the right of first refusal.)
The franchise also needs to make a real and serious commitment to a long term plan. And, when it comes to basketball operations, that includes treating the GM of the Mystics the way the GM of the Wizards is treated. As Aretha would say, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That means the Mystics’ GM (whoever she or he may be) should NOT be reporting to the head of business operations (Greg Bibb). Ernie Grunfeld does not report to Greg. Why not? Because Ernie (like Angela) has spent his entire career immersed in The Game of basketball -- its players, its coaches, every nuance and every aspect of The Game. His job is to achieve on-court success. Running the business side of things is extremely important to a professional franchise, no question about it. But Ernie, for good reason, doesn’t answer to Business Operations, and neither should the Mystics’ next GM. The person with the most experience in basketball, the person making the player personnel decisions, should be reporting to the owners. If that’s how men’s basketball is run, that’s how women’s basketball should be run too. Anything less is disrespectful, and sexist.
It won’t be easy for Sheila & Co. to repair the damage this last season has done. It won’t be easy to regain the trust and support of the fans. But Mystics management are the only ones who have the power to start the rebuilding process. The BCs challenge them to swallow their pride and do whatever it takes to make this right.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
It's Been a Long Dark Mystics Season, but finally, the BCs have something to look forward to . . . the Terps!
As our readers surely know by now (you do follow Coach B on Facebook and Twitter, don't you?), the ACC finally released their 2012 schedule today. So that allowed the Terps to finally release their 2011-12 schedule too.
Duke and Miami, who finished tied for the regular season title, get the 11th and 9th toughest schedules respectively (of 12 teams) this season. Florida State, who finished third, has the 10th toughest schedule. And Georgia Tech, who finished with the same record as the Terps last year, has the 12th (out of 12) toughest ACC draw. So, in summary, the Terps get the #1 toughest and the other top four teams get #11, #10, #9, #12. Hmmm. (As a certain actor on the old Laugh-In show used to say . . . verrrry interesting.)
Heck, we're not complaining . . . a tough ACC schedule could be a great thing for the Terps come . . . post-season.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Sunday, September 04, 2011
End of the
The BCs watched on NBA-TV as the Connecticut Sun scorched the Mystics, 79-48, at the Phone Booth today. All we kept thinking was how sorry we felt for all the Mystics' fans who had schlepped to the Verizon Center for this afternoon's final home game, aka "Fan Appreciation Day."
Hopefully, some in-arena entertainment or giveaways (or that generous deal of a large soda for the price of a medium) made it less painful for those fans actually present. As for watching on TV, this was one of those truly horrible, horrible, horrible games that leaves the usually verbose BCs at a loss for words.
The only enjoyable few moments for us came at half-time, when the TV broadcast showed a clip of DeMya and her daughter. That peek into their wonderful relationship provided a brief -- and sweet -- interlude in what was otherwise an unrelentingly depressing couple of hours.
As for the Mystics players, they have our sympathy . . . as they've had all season. Too bad they still have to play two more games -- both on the road. We have to believe that nobody wishes this season were already over more than they do. Unfortunately, the Mystics must now travel to face Conference-leading Indy at Conseco Fieldhouse on Wednesday at 7 PM.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
The same two teams that played on Thursday in the Phone Booth played each other again a day later (Friday) in Atlanta. But a different day and a different venue led to a very different result. This time, the Mystics were crushed by Atlanta, 95-73.
In the second half of the ATL-WAS back-to-back, the Mystics fell behind early, trailing by as many as 20 points in the first half. The Dream extended their lead to 24 points in the third period before the Mystics -- led by rookie Jasmine Thomas -- mounted a ferocious charge to close the gap to single digits early in the fourth. But then, well, Washington ran out of gas, or Atlanta switched to a higher gear, or some combination of the two. In any event, the last 9 minutes of the game were all Dream, all the time. A 22-point loss for the Mystics, their 25th loss of the season. (That ties the franchise record for second highest number of losses, with 3 games yet to play.)
Jasmine has really impressed the BCs this season . . . she continues to compete whether the going is easy -- or rough. And there's certainly been plenty of the latter. Last night she led the Mystics with a career-high 19 points. Lang, who also competes no matter what, chipped in 15 in the losing effort. And (newly released from the doghouse) Marissa added 12 off the bench.
One of the highlights of last night's broadcast was LaChina Robinson's half-time interview of the Miller Twins. Both have played for the Mystics, both have played for the Dream, and now one plays for each. Both are painfully shy, but LaChina (one of our favorite WNBA broadcasters) managed to pry a few words out of them. (Fortunately LaChina didn't bring up that painful episode from years back when the Mystics flew off to an away game, leaving Coco behind in the airport. Ooops.)
The Mystics return to the Verizon Center on Sunday for their final (thank goodness) home game of the 2011 season. They will tip-off against the Connecticut Sun at 4 PM in the annual fan
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Tonight at the Verizon Center, the Mystics finally put an end to their 9-game losing streak, as they upset the Atlanta Dream, 85-81.
The Dream, currently in 4th place in the tightly contested (that is, if you exclude the Mystics) Eastern Conference, arrived at the Phone Booth hoping to solidify their playoff position (and possibly gain some ground on the teams ahead of them in the standings). Instead, the Mystics played the role of spoiler.
In front of a sparse but enthusiastic crowd, Washington pulled ahead late in the final period, and sent the Dream home to Atlanta with another loss.
The fans at the Phone Booth had another reason to smile . . . the return of Mo Currie. With about 2 minutes left in the first quarter, Mo made her first appearance since last season. As our readers know, Mo tore an ACL playing overseas during the WNBA's off season, and underwent surgery early this year. She was greeted with cheering and a standing ovation when she entered the game. Mo played only 10 minutes, but given that she was playing her first WNBA game in nearly a year and playing on a surgically repaired knee, the BCs -- and others in the arena -- were impressed. Mo scored 8 points and pulled down 3 rebounds during her brief stint on the court.
Of course, without Old Faithful, Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics' losing streak wouldn't now be in the rear view mirror. Lang led Washington (once again) with 25 points and 10 boards. (She never ceases to amaze us!) Crystal got significant help this evening from Matee, who scored 19 points off the bench, 11 of them in the final period. And the aggressive play of rookie Jasmine Thomas (12 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds) also contributed greatly to the Mystics' win.
For the second game in a row, GM/HC Trudi tried a different starting line-up. Tonight, Trudi started Jasmine and Kelly, along with Kerri Gardin, Lang and DeMya. Matee subbed in along with Mo, but played extended minutes, while Mo's minutes, by necessity, were limited.
Speaking of limited . . . what the heck's going on with Marissa? As she did in Minny, Marissa spent most of tonight's game on the bench in her warm up suit. She entered the game late in the 3rd period, played a total of 8 minutes, missed one shot, committed one foul, but otherwise recorded zeros in her stat line. Is she hurt, sick . . . or just in Trudi's doghouse? In any event, she was pretty much a non-factor in tonight's victory.
The Mystics and the Dream will both be catching a flight (hopefully not the same one) to Atlanta tonight or in the morning. The same two teams play each other again tomorrow in Philips Arena. (WNBA scheduling drives the BCs nuts!) This means the Mystics will have another chance to play spoiler, and the Dream will have another chance to keep their playoff hopes alive . . . just in another venue, tomorrow (Friday) at 7:30 PM.