Washington Mystics Head Coach Press Conference Transcript
Frank Hanrahan: Weíd like to welcome invited guests and members of the media to todayís news conference to introduce to you the new Head Coach of the Washington Mystics. Iím Frank Hanrahan, the voice of the Mystics and Iím glad that you all came out today. Letís get this program started. I want to introduce to you the Chief Operating Officer of the Mystics, Greg Bibb.
Chief Operating Officer Greg Bibb: Well thank you Frank. Thank you to everyone that is joining us here today. A special thank you and mention to our loyal and devoted season ticket holders that took time out of their schedule to be with us. Time and time again you show us why we are blessed with the best fans in the WNBA right here in Washington. So thank you for being here.
Ladies and gentlemen today is an exciting day for Ted Leonsis, for Sheila Johnson, for the Washington Mystics staff, our players and really our entire organization. Personally Iím thankful and excited knowing that the selection that we have made in the previous weeks; first with the selection of Angela Taylor as our new General Manager and now with Julie Plank as our new Head Coach are the right decisions and the right selections. And I can say that because we have developed a process and a list of traits that we were looking for in these hires and we stayed to true to that process and true to those traits in evaluating the candidates, a very deep and talented candidate pool for both positions. We stayed true to those processes and those traits and we made the right selections in Angela and in Julie. Both of these women come here to Washington as winners. Both are committed to being part of the Washington Mystics organization and the community in which they will work and live. Both are committed to a philosophy of building a winning organization for the long term. And when I tell you that it does not mean that we will ignore free agent opportunities, it doesnít mean that we will look to veteran players, it simply means that we will put an emphasis on youth and player development something that I feel we have been missing here as part of our formula here in the recent past.
Iím aware that this organization has a history of losing and Iím aware that this organization has a history of inconsistency and I donít think there is any reason to believe that those two issues are not related and by hiring Angela and by hiring Julie I think we are going to address both of them. We have talked a lot about recent weeks about building for the long term and putting together a team that can win for a long window of time and not just a season. And I think that the only way to do that is to make a commitment to the people that are going to build that organization for the long term. While we wonít talk specifics in regards to contracts today, I will tell you that the ownership group and the organization have made a commitment that is multiyear to both Angela and to Julie to allow them to have the time necessary to allow them to have the time necessary to build this operation the right way for the long term. And with that I am going to turn things over to Angela and she will talk a little bit more about our new Head Coach Julie Plank.
General Manager Angela Taylor: Thank you Greg. First, Iíd like to thank you all for coming here today. This truly is a very exciting day for the Mystics organization. I continue to grow more and more excited and to build my belief with the potential of this organization on a day by day basis primarily because of the leadership group with Ted and Sheila and Greg, we have a phenomenal group of people that work for this organization and so as I continue to get to know them, I continue to grow my belief in what we can do and what we can accomplish as an organization.
As we navigated this entire process in the past couple of weeks with the strong candidate pool that we had, there was a lot of evidence in what we really can do here in Washington D.C. I think that we have found that person in Julie to help lead this organization and to execute the vision that we have for the Mystics on the court. Julie is somebody that I have known for quite a long time and as Greg, over the last few weeks has shared with all of you guys, there are certain traits that we were looking for in this organization and in that person that was going to lead on the basketball side on the court as well as in a general manager. In addition to those traits there were four categories that were really important for us to have in the person that was going to lead us from the bench. And those four categories first were led by just a strong coaching resume, and I know you guys have a copy of Julieís resume and her accolades in basketball speak for themselves. Over 20 years of being with legendary coaches. Not only did she work with these coaches, but they all gave her quite a bit of responsibility on those staffs to really learn and grow her vision and her philosophy for the game of basketball. The thing that I like the most about Julie is that sheís a winner. She has won on every level; whether it was as a player at Ohio State, back in the day, or if it was two National Championships with Stanford or in the Eastern Conference finals in Indiana a couple of years ago. She has won on every level and I think that speaks for itself. As Greg alluded to we are about winning in this organization and we want to build it from the ground up and you have to believe that you can do it.
To go on to the second thing that I thought was very important that this organization that this person represents this team and the organization and the ownership group both on and off of the court so it was very important for them to have strong character. So we looked at a lot of different traits that were important to us both on the floor and off the floor. From a basketball standpoint it was important that this person was a great communicator, a great teacher and would hold our players accountable and again help develop our players which I think is very critical.
What really stood out for me was that, a lot of times you find out about a person when their peers talk about them. This past year, 2008, Julie was named by the General Managers in the WNBA as the top assistant coach in the WNBA and I think that speaks very highly on her.
Another category that we had was just the report with the players the ability to develop players. Again we talked about the youth that is on this roster and it extremely important that we found somebody that was going to put the time, the time necessary. Iíve known Julie for a long time and she in one of the best player developers in this game. She takes the time, itís not easy, you have to give a lot of extra time, itís not just between the lines of two hours that youíre practicing; itís that extra time early in the morning or late at night that you are willing to go to the gym and work with the players. And you need somebody to articulate the playersí roles and help them understand exactly what in expected of them and just knowledge of the WNBA and that speaks for itself.
If you look at all these things, they sound great, but we were not interested in something that looked great on paper we wanted somebody that was going to help lead us to greatness on the court and be able to execute a plan. So I know you all will be excited about seeing what Julie brings to the table, sheís a fantastic individual, sheís a great motivator, sheís a great communicator, sheís given her life to womenís basketball and committed to helping the Mystics organization do great things. So for the Mystics organization, the owners, the players and the staff it is a pleasure to introduce the Head Coach of the Washington Mystics Julie Plank.
Head Coach Julie Plank: Wow that was impressive Angela. First of all I am just ecstatic to be here in Washington and very excited about being the new Head Coach for the Washington Mystics. I want to thank Sheila and Ted for their support as well as Greg and Angela, I think their leadership at the top and their commitment and their confidence in me were very evident throughout the interview process and I really admire their commitment to this program and to do it the right way. I also feel very fortunate to work closely with Angela Taylor to build this organization and bring in not only great talent, but quality people to this organization. I think that is extremely important. And as Angela mentioned, Iím from Ohio State, I love the quote from former coach Woody Hayes that Ďyou win with peopleí. Iím not someone who says that itís about me, itís about the people in this room, itís about the people in the Washington community, itís about every single player on our team and that is something that will always be important to me. In looking back and working with Angela when she was at Stanford the thing about her is, and one of the reasons Iím here, is that she is a winner. She has won on every level, as a player, the thing about her is she always wants to get better and she is always pushing for excellence and those are the types of people that I want to surround myself with. She did that in the league office when she was there, she did that in her coaching profession and having a year to work with her in Minnesota was a pleasure to work with her again and I think she is going to great things here in D.C. and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with her and bring a winner here in the D.C. area.
Iíd also like to thank my family who is very very supportive of me, my mom in particular I wish she was here now, but just for their love and support of me. My family is very important and I would like to thank them.
Having been in the WNBA for nine years, I have been very fortunate to grow as a coach and Iíve been in great organizations. I want to thank Glen Taylor, Roger Griffith and Don Zierden for the opportunity to work in Minnesota this summer and coach some fabulous players in particular their nucleus was really a lot of fun this summer. I had great years, eight seasons, in Indiana and I want to thank Kelly Krauskopf, David Morway for that experience. And have the opportunity to work with some fabulous coaches like Angela said like and the quality of Nell Fortner who was our Olympic Coach in 2000 and Brian Winters who has an NBA background I was very close to him. I really admire them and learned a lot along the way. Iíd also like to give gratitude to my mentor Tara VanDerveer who probable has had the biggest influence on my coaching career and I have the utmost respect for her and she has really done a lot for me and I want to recognize her.
Iím very excited to work with these players. I talked to Monique Currie on the phone this morning, sheís headed to Poland this afternoon to meet up with Alana Beard and play on her team. Iím familiar with the players in this franchise and Iím really looking forward to getting them all together and building this. Iím very committed to staying here in the D.C. area, Iím not someone that jumps around organizations a lot, I get somewhere and Iím comfortable and I want to build and I want to win. I just appreciate the leadership here for the opportunity and I look forward to working with you all bring great things to Washington.
FH: Thank you Julie. What we are going to do now is open up for any questioning.
Media: You have been a long time assistant why was the timing right to make a move to a Head Coach?
JP: I think in my career I have been extremely fortunate to work in great places with great people and that doesnít always happen along the way. Sometimes when you are in a great situation itís hard to move on and Iím someone that doesnít like change, I like to stay in a place and I want to build it and I get attached to things and so itís hard to move and youíre not just going to move for any situation. I really felt like, in reading the traits for a head coach here that it totally fit me, I love working with the players, I want to build things I admire talking to Sheila and Ted and Greg and Angela and they wanted to do it the right way and were interested in building and Iím not afraid to do that. I love that, and itís very rewarding to do that and when I came here the more and more I was here and heard about it and talked to people, I knew that this was a great fit for me.
Media: Can you tell us a little bit about your coaching style and what you will bring to the Washington Mystics.
JP: My coaching, I am someone that is very passionate about the game, Iím very hard working, Iím very intense and Iím very demanding. I expect a lot from our players and I also expect them to give to their teammates as well. My coaching style, I like to bring out the best in players I evaluate them and see what they do best and put them in situation where they can be successful.
Media: You will be facing a group of players who have heard multiple times that this is your coach and this one is really going to stay around this time. Are you going to have to sell yourself as the one that will be with them for a while?
JP:Iím not going to talk about the past. I can only talk about what I can bring. I think change is hard for a lot of people especially for players when there is turnover in an organization, it is very hard to adjust. If you look around the league and see the teams that have been there whether it is a staff that has been together or a core group of players, five or six players that have competed together and know each other it is very hard to put together a mix of players together fast or a staff together fast. Iím looking to do that, I am committed to being here, like Greg said, and hopefully those things to change because of that commitment and that consistency.
GB: Iím a really believer in continuity and how vital that is to long term success. So going back a year ago October, we sort of reshuffled the deck and started building the organization all over again we focused that energy primarily at the beginning on the front office and trying to get the business model established because letís face it, if we donít have a good business model and your organization cannot be successful there the basketball issues become secondary in nature so we did that, Iím happy to say that we added talented and experienced people so now the focus shifts to the basketball side. I have two fabulous ladies on either side of me now who are proven winners everywhere they have been they have won so all we can do is look at past experience and see that they have been successful and hope that can translate here and make a commitment to them and to our fans that they are going to have the opportunity and the time to be successful and experience the winning that they have experienced other places.
Media: You both have mentioned your history together can you talk a little bit about that?
AT: One of the things that made us give Julie this opportunity when we initially sat down with Greg, Ted and Sheila, there were a lot of different things that we had in common, our beliefs, our values the vision that we had for this organization and the list of candidates that we had. Iíve known Julie for a long time and Iíve been in this league for a long time and when you have been able to see some of the coaches that have come and gone from this league and the qualities and characteristics that lead to a successful coach and Julie is somebody that I thought would be successful in the right situation when she decided that was the place that she wanted to be because of what she brings to the table. Itís not just about them helping the team win, itís about these players achieving success, whatever success it is for them as individuals. Julie is not just about the basketball side of these players she is also about the people and she will help them grow.
Media: How will you help develop the players?
JP: I think a big part of that is sharing with our players what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, where they have to improve in the off season and where they have to put their energy. Iím very honest with the people; Iím not going to tell them what they want to hear. I truly want them to be the best player they can be and the best person they can be and Iím very clear of setting expectations for them and telling them this is what I expect and this is how I want it done. I love to communicate, Iím not a dictator that says here is what you are doing this is it, this is the only way. Iím very open, I listen a lot I want to hear what they think and Iím very clear on what I expect and then we evaluate along the way, how are we doing, where are we. And I think the more they comeback and improve individually then its going to help our team intensively.
Media: Are you looking at specific players to bring in?
JP: We have to evaluate our roster. Obviously this is one of the first things that we will do, where we see people, who we like, who we think will fit into our system. I think the people your bring in is critical, the way that you build your roster, itís not about getting the top 11 or 13 most talented players, itís how they mesh together and what their personalities are. Looking at the team now there is a good mix of old and new, I think that is important to establish for the long term. You have to have some veterans, some leaders so we are just going to keep evaluating our team first of all and then look around the league, we are open to looking at some free agents anyone that will help our roster we will take a look at them.
Media: You talked about focusing on youth and player development.
AT: We want to emphasize that we are building for the long term we want to look at organizations like the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz, the New England Patriots, these organizations that have sustained winning over the long term so that is what we want to be about we donít want to be about a quick win next year or the following year we want to be an organization that people come to respect. How that happens, itís not mutually exclusive, because you are building with youth does not mean that you cannot win with youth. There are a lot of talented players out there and if you put those players in a position to be successful that is all you can ask for. What our goal is for this organization is that for every game, for 34 games of our 2009 season, we are competing we are in it to win it. We want to go into every single game next year with a chance to win and you will notice, and I think you guys will be excited about the little things that it takes to win at this level the subtle little things the discipline, the execution and reinforcing the little things and Julie and her staff will be able to reinforce these things. And you will be surprised with what happens. We are not just looking at wins and losses for the success of this organization; we are looking for an improved team on the court, a team you will enjoy watching play and hopefully that translates to wins.
GB: Obviously the NHL and the WNBA are different leagues and the model of how you build successful teams is slightly different. However, itís not lost on us that our brother organization under the Lincoln Holdings Ownership Group built a very particular way and we will share a lot of those characteristics as we move forward. And Iím thinking that we are starting with five draft picks in the 2009 WNBA Draft, provides us a great opportunity to have a lot of cards on the table about how we go about starting that process.