Sheila C. Johnson Talks to the Media
Edited excerpts of Sheila C. Johnsonís Question and Answer session with members of the media on August 19th, 2008
WashingtonMystics.com: What made you feel the need to reach out to the fans and make this statement and ease their concerns?
Sheila C. Johnson: Well, I think in the past three years that I, fortunately or unfortunately, have become very close to my fan base and it seems like after every game whether we win or lose, they either look up to me and give me a ďhiĒ sign or when we lose they are questioning what we are going to do. Both Ted (Leonsis) and I, and Greg (Bibb) felt as though I should step forward and reach out one last time and give them the indication that Iím not giving up, that I am here for them and that I am really committed to making the Washington Mystics work. It has been a tough year for me emotionally watching this team on the floor, just when you think youíve got a winning team and youíve got everything together, things starts falling apart and Iím just not going to give up and I want them to know that Iím not giving up that I am here and I am committed to Washington D.C. and the Metropolitan area in making this team one of the best in the league.
WashingtonMystics.com: Are you confident in the direction that the team is headed and the decisions that have been made this past year?
SCJ: I donít think that I have a choice. We cannot continue on this pathway which we have been going. We have all sat down, we have analyzed what we see and what we think is going on. The Mystics have not moved one ounce in their 11-year history and we have got to start making some changes because you know it is the only way that this team is going to survive. If I canít move the marker here than I am going to lose my fan base, I want to make a difference in this team, I want a winning team.
WashingtonMystics.com: What do you think leadership has been doing to get this team heading in the right direction?
SCJ: We now have a very solid office, we have got good sales staff, a superb Chief Operating Officer who really knows how to crunch the numbers, and make things work, Iíve got good PR people, good sponsorship people, and we have an office for the first time in the Verizon Center. Now my last piece of this puzzle is this team. Why is it that I canít attract the best talent for this team and that is the puzzle that I am trying to figure out and that takes my coaching staff, my General Manager, my COO. We have got to figure out how in the world we can get into a draft that is really going to change the complexion of this team to make it a championship team.
WashingtonMystics.com: You feel that the administrative side is in place all you have to figure out is the team side?
SCJ: We are up 1,200 fans this year, our ticket revenue is up 17%, we have got more sponsorship, and we have got new sponsors such as Under Armour. Sibley Hospital is a great sponsor. We are heading, on a business level, in the right direction. I just have to get the team on the floor.
WashingtonMystics.com: Do you foresee any future changes for the team. Will this same core group be back next season?
SCJ: That is a question that we are still trying to answer. I think that every one of our players knows that no one is untouchable. I think more then anything it is the work ethic that I am looking for.
WashingtonMystics.com: Are you happy with the changes Jessie has implemented and is she part of the plan moving forward?
Greg Bibb: I think that what we are trying to do organizationally and what we started in the front office in October is to create a culture of accountability. We set goals. We are held accountable to those goals and standards and we either meet those goals and standards or we donít, and we are held accountable for those actions and results. We are in the midst actually of translating that to the basketball side and we will have the same group of standards over there. From a basketball specific perspective, there have been no decisions made about next year.
WashingtonMystics.com: Are you confident in the basketball side of franchise?
SCJ: I have to tell you that since I joined Lincoln Holdings, I have been on a learning curve. I think that right now on the business side we have really nailed it. I am even getting kudos from the league office in New York. I think this last little piece now is just really trying to put together how we can move forward building the best team and I have all the confidence in the world with my entire staff that we can make this one of the strongest franchises in the league.
GB: Iím not satisfied on either front. We have made some nice strides this year from a business perspective and have done a lot of good things, but it is incremental growth. We still have miles and miles to go and I think the difference is we were able to forge a plan. On the basketball side, I donít think anyone is satisfied. Sheila mentioned it before; the team is 70 games under .500 in our 11-year history. No one is happy at 10-16, if we are happy at 10-16; we are in the wrong business. There is no joy in losing; there is no satisfaction in losing.
WashingtonMystics.com: How do you regard the Taj-Delisha trade, is that regarded as a failure?
GB: I donít view that transaction as a failure at all. In that regard, we had a situation where there was a player who did not want to be a part of our organization anymore. We were extremely fortunate to make a deal in which not only did we get a first round draft pick for next season, we got an All-Star caliber player, who by the way came here and played probably beyond expectations for us and then we were able to make a decision to trade that player to Detroit to pick up the #11 player in the draft, the #15 player from 2007 and a second round pick. So as Sheila alluded to before, if you look at the legacy of that deal for DeLisha Milton-Jones, we got Tasha Humphrey, Shay Murphy, a first round pick and a second round pick.
WashingtonMystics.com: Is it disappointing that it has taken so long to reach this point?
SCJ: Yes, very disappointing. Every year when we start a new season, I think that we are going to have a good year. It is really disappointing as an owner to see this happening and itís really funny, because Ted and I had a long talk about this and he went through this with the Caps and he told me to hang in there. And you know it is a learning process, I was never a basketball player, I enjoyed the sport, but I didnít understand the meat of basketball and what it takes to build a franchise and Iím learning it. And I think we are doing pretty well on that and like Greg said we have miles to go if you come back to me in two or three years, we will have a stronger team and a much stronger organization.