Q&A With Julie Hairgrove
In our quest to keep the best fans in the WNBA the most informed fans in the WNBA, PhoenixMercury.com's latest Q&A is with returning assistant coach Julie Hairgrove, who re-signed with Phoenix on Dec. 13, 2013.
As most Phoenix Mercury fans know, Hairgrove has been a member of both Mercury championship coaching staffs, recently completed her ninth season as a Mercury assistant coach, and was instrumental in the teamís success after a midseason coaching change in 2013.
A former four-year starter at the University of Arizona, Hairgrove is the granddaughter of Hall of Fame Arizona coach Lute Olsen, and is a mother of three.
Get to know how Hairgroveís off-season is going through our exclusive Q&A below.
PhoenixMercury.com: Youíve been here now for nine seasons. Something keeps you coming back. What is it about the organization that makes you want to be a part of it year after year?
Julie Hairgrove: It is the people that I work with. Over the last nine years, I have worked with great people whether it has been the management, coaches or players.
It truly is a first-class organization.
PhoenixMercury.com: How important is continuity in basketball and coaching? What will it mean to the team to have a returning core roster and both assistant coaches in Sandy Brondelloís first year in Phoenix?
Hairgrove: It is very important. Itís good that we have most of our team returning next season because we will have to adjust to the new things that Coach Brondello wants to put in both offensively and defensively.
It is a lot easier to adjust to one coach than all three coaches.
PhoenixMercury.com: During your time in the league, how have you seen the WNBA progress in terms of talent? More scorers? Bigger, stronger, etc.?
Hairgrove: The talent and quality of play has improved because the athletes are better. Every year, the rookies that come in are bigger, stronger and faster. Post players are more and more versatile. The rookies coming in are adapting to the professional ranks quicker and are making huge impacts on their teams right away.
PhoenixMercury.com: Youíve helped to lead this team to the Western Conference Finals in four of the last five seasons. How far is the Mercury from getting over that hump and back to that championship level?
Hairgrove: Every year is like putting a puzzle together. You have to make sure all the pieces fit together so that you put your team in a good position to win a championship. The team that keeps ending our season is the Minnesota Lynx. We need to add to a very good core group of players that can get us past the Lynx.
However, in saying that, the West is going to be a tough conference and every night we need to have our team ready to play.
PhoenixMercury.com: Not that PhoenixMercury.com would ever pick sides in the war between Tempe and Tucson, but how exciting is it down there with the U of A Menís Basketball team (currently No. 1 in the nation!) back at the level your grandfather consistently had it?
Hairgrove: Everyone down in Tucson is excited about Arizona basketball! Sean Miller has done a terrific job getting UA back to what the fans are used to. We still go to all the games and enjoy watching them play. Papa Lute has a great relationship with Sean Miller and he enjoys going to the games as well. It is always fun to beat Duke! (Sorry, KT.)
Bear Down and Go Cats!
PhoenixMercury.com: What are you most excited about for the 2014 Mercury season?
Hairgrove: I am excited to work with all the new faces of the Phoenix Mercury organization. I am looking forward to working with, and learning from, Sandy Brondello and Anthony Boone.
Most of all, I am excited to get our players back in Phoenix and see what Brittney Griner will bring in her second season!