Mercury Mailbox: Ann Meyers Drysdale Takes Your Questions
Updated: Sept. 5, 2007
Have a question for your Phoenix Mercury about opponents, strategy, history or whatever? E-mail Mercury General Manager and basketball Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale, who will be answering select questions throughout the Mercury's postseason run.
What do you think has been the headline of the Finals series so far?
Meyers Drysdale: Four great games! Fans are seeing the best two teams in the league going head-to-head and it's now down to a one-game series.
Did you expect the series to be this physical?
Meyers Drysdale: Yes we did. Detroit is a physical team; that's how they've played ever since Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn took over. They have nurtured the "Bad Girl" image just like the "Bad Boy" Pistons of the '90's. Coach Laimbeer has players such as Ford, Pierson, Braxton, Smith, and Pee Wee Johnson who all play a hard, physical style.
What do you miss most about broadcasting?
What was the most memorable or rewarding experience in your broadcasting career?
Meyers Drysdale: After 28 years and having broadcast Olympic gold medal games, NCAA and AIAW Championships, I've witnessed games with spectacular performances, game-winning shots, and incredible athletes. It's difficult to choose one, but I find the greatest joy in seeing doors open up for women to get into the business of broadcasting.
Congratulations on your recent Hall of Fame honors! What was it like traveling to Madrid for the ceremony?
Meyers Drysdale: It was a great! I'm very glad I chose to go, but it was a difficult decision because of the Finals. It was an honor because only three Americans were inducted and I got to go in with Bill Russell and Dean Smith. I am thrilled I was able to be there and share it with my three children and having my family there was something I'll always treasure. We got back just in time for Game 4 and getting that win was just as sweet!
Is there anyone you go to for advice or support during the playoffs?
Meyers Drysdale: As far as broadcasting, my inspiration is most certainly husband Don Drysdale. The fact that I was able to work with Keith Jackson, Dick Enberg, and be around greats like Vin Scully and Al Michaels had a big impact on my broadcasting career. I'm also thankful for the women I've had an opportunity to work with, especially Robin Roberts - who is not only a friend but someone who's taught me a great deal.
There are so many people who have inspired or supported me in my new role as General Manager. People like Bill Russell, Jerry West, Buzzie Bavasi, Billy Moore, Pat Summitt, and Coach Wooden. I also learned from women around the WNBA - Carol Blazejowski, Anne Donovan, Linda Hargrove, and Kelly Krauskopf. But I must add that having Mike D'Antoni, Steve Kerr, and Dave Griffin in the Suns organization has been a huge benefit. They've been great!
Although, when I was deciding whether or not to move on from broadcasting and take on a new role, the people I listened to most were my children and my family.
Detroit won Game 5 of the Finals at home last year. Do you think that experience gives them an advantage?
Meyers Drysdale: Certainly Detroit has to be the favorite. They’re the defending champions and they're playing on their home court. We've proven the Phoenix Mercury can beat a team on the road. We did it in Detroit; we did it in Seattle and San Antonio. We're hungry for our first championship and they're looking for their third, but it will come down to execution. Who's going to make mistakes down the stretch and who's going to make the big plays at the end. We've shown that we can beat a team scoring 100 points and we can also win scoring in the 70's. We are definitely capable of bringing the title to Phoenix!
What is the best part about being in the playoffs?
-- Rebecca, Manteca, CA
Meyers Drysdale: The best part of being in the playoffs is winning! The goal all year long is to win a championship and now we're at the final stage. Hopefully, we'll finish it out and complete the goal.
Most people who watch basketball understand how good Diana Taurasi is on the floor as a player, but can you elaborate on what other intangibles she brings to the team?
Meyers Drysdale: She understands the game from all positions. When she was in college at University of Connecticut her coach Gino Auriemma compared her to Joe Montana because she sees plays developing before they happen. She has the special ability to understand where players need to be; sometimes she's so far ahead of other players that they have to catch up.
The other thing that impresses me is that she's very much a team player. It's never about her. She can do some amazing things on the court - and the great players step up at times when it matters - in clutch situations and championship games. When she's in those situations she raises her game to another level.
Do you ever travel as a scout for the team and look for players that could help our team?
What did you think about the last call in the first San Antonio game?
Meyers Drysdale: Certainly a lot of Silver Stars fans thought the call was questionable. Being in broadcasting for 28 years, we have the luxury of questioning calls because we get to see a replay five different times from different angles. It's hard to be unbiased, but we have to respect officials in all of their calls - including the one at the end of that game. They make calls and you have to go with it.
Have you had time to play any golf - I've read you love the game.
Meyers Drysdale: I do love the game, and I've played a few times in Phoenix and squeezed in a game a couple of weeks ago. Lately, though, I've been in the office too much trying to get things organized not only for this year but we're already preparing for next year. I know that next time I get on the course it will be Military: Left! Right! Left!
Rebounding is one big factor against the Shock. What are the other factors you see that it will take to beat Detroit and bring home a WNBA Championship?
Meyers Drysdale: They've had the best record this year, and they're the defending Champions. We've got the best streak coming in to the series, but this is going to be a physical game. They beat us 111-82 last time we met and although we're a different team since then, we know they can run. We've got to knock our shots down, play good defense, and try to get them into foul trouble.
What approach is the team taking to coincide with the Olympics?
Meyers Drysdale: We'll be taking the month of August off in 2008 and will be preparing much the same way they did in 2004. We're not looking too far ahead, but focused on what we need to do before we get to August and how to regroup in September.
What do you attribute as the key to the Mercury being the top team in the West?
Meyers Drysdale: One is our coaching staff: Bringing Coach Westhead back. He implemented his style last year, and the nucleus of the team remained intact. They knew his style, knew what he wanted, and everybody was here and onboard from our first game on. Another factor has been that we have stayed healthy. We haven't had any major injuries beyond nicks and bumps along the way, but we've been fortunate to be relatively healthy for most of the season.
If you are able to beat the Silver Stars & move onto the finals who would you like to play & why?
-- MaKenzie, Waterloo, Nebraska
Meyers Drysdale: I'll tell you, MaKenzie, we really feel confident going in.
We feel good with the Silver Stars. We had a 3-1 record against them in the regular season, but we know the playoffs are another story. They are hungry, and they are talented. Sophia Young is one of the best young post players around, and Becky Hammon has new life in her with a team playing her style of basketball. Their coach - Dan Hughes - has a tremendous mind for the game. They're tough, and they beat us here in Phoenix. So that's a big "if".
Do we care who we play? We are 2-0 against the Fever, and we're 0-2 against Detroit. But in saying that, I really feel that if we make it to the Finals, we have a lot of confidence and it's not going to matter who we play.
How often do you see the team, and do you go with the team when they travel?
Meyers Drysdale:I travel sometimes with the team. I don't go on all the road trips because there are still things to do in the front office, and to prepare for their next home games. Things that happen on the road are easier to take care of back here in Phoenix. I watch the practices, and have conversations with Coach Westhead. We'll talk to the players and text them - that's the big thing now - and they're great at it.
With Penny staying overseas, and Phoenix having the 13th pick in next year's draft (12th, if there isn't expansion), what alternatives are you looking at? Obviously, moving Tangela Smith to the four and getting someone like Laura Harper to play the five would be ideal, but would you consider trading the pick for Delisha Milton-Jones?
Meyers Drysdale: Barry, you could be my assistant GM! Great job! We haven't gotten that far yet. We don't know for sure whether or not Penny Taylor will stay over there, and we are certainly hoping to bring her and Belinda Snell back. No question that Penny has shown why she was the MVP of the FIBA World Championships. She is an MVP candidate this year, and will hopefully make First Team All-WNBA.
We are hoping to keep the nucleus together, but we don't know what's going to happen with the dispersal draft if there's a new team. There are a lot of things we're taking into consideration, but we haven't made any decisions yet.
Do you think the Mercury are playing better defense in the playoffs?
Meyers Drysdale: Their defense has definitely risen. Coach Westhead has made some great adjustments and I think the players - while they've always played good defense - are learning to work together to close the gaps in the zone. With Tangela Smith, we're long in the back and the top of the zone - with Diana, Kelly, Cappie and then you bring Kelly Mazzante in there, plus Belinda Snell - there is a better read of how they rotate in the defense. They have not only elevated their offense in the postseason, but also their defense as well.
If you were WNBA Commissioner for one season, what would change about the league?
Meyers Drysdale: There are so many things, but you can only do so much! My opinion has always been - and it hasn't wavered - that the league should change the ball back to a regular-sized ball. That's just me, my opinion.
How does being a general manager of a team in the middle of a successful playoff run compare with playing in a big game, series or tournament?
Meyers Drysdale: For the last 28 years, I've prided myself on being very impartial. When I was a broadcaster, I rooted for everybody. Now I'm back with a team and it feels really good to root for just one team.
Now that I'm on the business side of the sport, a lot of the opinions and ideas I formed as a broadcaster haven't changed. In broadcasting we'd cover games - in front of and behind the camera - as a team. We wanted to put on the best production we could. Working in the front office now, we work as a team to put the best product on the court.
Thank you for having the guts to trade the top draft pick for Tangela Smith. What has her post play and experience on winning teams meant to the Mercury this season? -- Jay, Peoria
Meyers Drysdale: We had gone to Minnesota several times to try and make the trade after they'd selected her in the dispersal draft. Coach Westhead loved her game, and he really wanted her. It was really a last minute call on their part to work the deal. We had to work fast to make some changes for her contract, but we felt that her ability and veteran experience outweighed what any rookie could come in and do. Her impact has been tremendous on this team.