WNBA Coaches
2006 Preseason Media Teleconference

Dave Cowens | Anne Donovan | Richie Adubato | Paul Westhead | Bill Laimbeer | Mike Thibault | Van Chancellor
Because of technical difficulties with the call recording device, several coaches transcripts who spoke on Monday were lost and will not be included.

Dave Cowens
Chicago Sky

Opening Statement: Comment on the upcoming season is going to be one I’m looking forward to, finding out an awful lot about the WNBA and the excitement around the games, the talent in the league, how the other coaches coach, and just being in the gym with the competition and the crowds and I’m just looking forward to it.

Q: Talk about the progress of Candace Dupree and how she’s been shaping up.

A: She’s better than I thought she was. Very fluid, pretty tough kid. I thought she was a little more laid back than she really is, but she’s got sort of a laid back demeanor, pretty aggressive and very competitive. I think she can be as good as good as she wants to be and I think she’s getting better all the time.

Q: What has impressed you the most about the league now that you’re a few games in?

A: I think the biggest thing that I see is the camaraderie. Just how good teammates women are to one another and how well they treat each other and how much fun they being around one another. So I think that’s been the biggest surprise.

Q: Talk about team chemistry and building something from scratch.

A: I think we’re trying to put in a style of play that we have no go-to players that may be every day somebody is going to be the star of the game and they’ll be different game in and game out. We’re allowing players to … make the right decision at the right time for the right reason. Getting people to learn multiple positions and understanding the game flows best when people don’t have … either … other than trying to do what I just talked about – [not] trying to think too much, just play the game and take what the defense gives you and let it happen.

Q: What did you like about Liz Shimek?

A: I just think that this year based on what she has done in the past, she was a pretty close first-round pick. Based on where you think we’re going to end up this year, if we end up with the fifth or sixth worst record in the league – and depending where Houston ends up – it’s not that big of a difference in terms of swapping draft picks. Even if we were to end up in the basement and have the fifteenth pick, I was looking at next year’s draft list and I went over it with some people and kind of feel like, “Is she as good a player as somebody there would be.” But we get her and have her all year and see what she’s all about and help our team as we’re going forward. She’s a good shooter when she’s standing still – it’s just a little bit of what I learned about her so far, she’s got a lot to think about ‘cause she’s so new to what we’re doing, so she’s not relaxed and comfortable and settled in. She runs well, she’s got good hands, she’s strong, and she’s durable. Will she ever be a star in the league? I don’t know. They all have the potential to be, but I just think she’s as good as anybody we can get next year, even if we finish with the fifteenth pick.

Q: Talk about your philosophy in terms of style of player. Do you look for “crafty” players?

A: What I have found out with this bunch is they are sort of unselfish to a fault and I don’t understand what that’s all about. I think they approach the game … when they’re driving to the basket, instead of thinking about “I’m going to score,” somehow passing gets in there and it almost holds them back instead of just owning the moment to themselves and trying to finish everything off they sort of back off a little bit. I’m trying to get them out of that bad habit. I explain to them it’s not about being selfish, you’re making a mistake when you’re not taking advantage of a certain situation for a preconceived notion. The other thing is they move too fast; they’re trying to do stuff in a hurry, almost a little bit panicked. They don’t seem to be nervous, they just go too fast and they don’t allow everything to sort of settle in and kind of just run and get in each other’s way too much. So we’re just trying to get out of that and if we can have some clear cut certain plays – you’re supposed to be in certain spots and the same player is not going to be in those spots all the time and you just have to assume the role of that player in that spot when you happen to be there – it’s just learning the game that way. Get the ball in the block, don’t worry about passing, let’s try to score. We’ve already got the ball where we want it so don’t give that up. Even if you’re not a great scorer. A missed shot is not a bad thing; a turnover is. Just trying to get everyone to take ownership when they’re supposed to during the course of the game.

Q: What’s your sense of the city embracing this team?

A: We need a little over 100,000 people this summer to have a great season. I think when people come to watch the games, they are a group of people that like women’s basketball. They’re there for certain reasons, because of the fact that women are playing, there’s young girls there, there’s great role models out there working hard and doing a good job and excelling and being good athletes and all that stuff. That’s what we’re selling. We’re selling a product that’s geared toward people who enjoy this product, not trying to compare it to something else all the time. And I think there’s 100,000 people in Chicago that will really enjoy this product. So if our success is based just on numbers, I think that we can create a good enough buzz that we’ll get those 100,000 people over the course of the year.

Q: Thoughts on Chelsea Newton?

A: I really like her, and coach out there didn’t want to lose her … She’s very aggressive, she’s fun to be around, she plays hard, she’s not afraid, she’s resilient, she’s a great teammate. She shoots a little bit better than everyone told me she did, and I tell her to keep shooting. And when the lights came on in the game, she shot the ball, she missed one, got it back shot it again and she made it. To me that’s wonderful, that’s growth, and I want them to feel that way. Because I think they’re all capable, and I’m not going to pigeonhole them and say well “You can’t shoot” and “You can’t shoot.” No, ya’ll are going to shoot if you’re open. She has embraced that and … she’s definitely one of our better players, no question about it. She hasn’t been here through the training camp either, she was overseas. But when she came in, you could tell she had a real presence to her and everybody really likes her on the team, but everybody likes everybody on this team.

Return to Top of Page

Anne Donovan
Seattle Storm

Opening Statement: I’m really excited for the season. We’re at such a different place than we were a year ago. We entered 2005 ... pretty much lost a lot of players, we lost two of our starters, our top perimeter sub off the bench, so we really almost – we’re starting over last year. This year … the complete opposite. We return our top six players, our starters, our top perimeter sub, and then also the acquisition of Wendy Palmer as a free agent post-player for us. So we’ve come right away with a lot more experience than we did a year ago. Training Camp has gone very well on the court in terms of Barbara Turner adjusting, Wendy Palmer adjusting, and Shaun Gortman – a free agent that we picked up – really helping us look pretty good. The downfall has been injuries. Lauren Jackson continues to struggle with a stress fracture in her shin. Janell Burse has been out for almost the entire training camp with a shoulder injury. So we’ve struggled to get flow with the group that we have but I have to say I’m excited about the talent we’ve got and like every team in the WNBA, you have to stay healthy, and if we can do that, I think we’re going to be a very competitive team this year. With that I will open it up …

Q: What does Wendy Palmer – one of the seven original WNBA players – bring to the team?

A: We knew at the end of last season that we needed to go after a veteran player. And the idea with a veteran player from a leadership standpoint to help Sue and Lauren with that role … And then somebody who is hungry; and Wendy had fit the bill or she hadn’t won a ring and was in the twilight of her career looking to get a ring, and to do anything it takes to get a ring. For us, we felt we had to get back to a little bit of that mentality and losing Bevilaqua and Vodichkova and Sheri Sam we lost a lot of that. So struggling through last year, which ended up being a very positive year for us, but still that was our missing piece, which Wendy brings to the table. So her intangibles – I can go on and on about – she brings us leadership, she brings us that desire, and then from a physical standpoint, she helps stretch the defense out and our post – it’s really imperative that our post players can score from the outside and defenders cannot double-down on Jackson on the low post. Obviously Wendy [as] one of the premiere three-point shooters in the league fits that bill tremendously. So to Wendy’s credit, she’s come in here and really done everything we’ve asked of her and more than we intended to ask of her. With Lauren and Janell both out, she’s been playing much more minutes than we had intended, but I think when we get back to settling her into the role of our top post sub, we’re going to really have some good versatility in the post. So I’m very very please; she’s everything that we hoped she’d be when we acquired her.

Q: What comes to mind when you think of the Leslie-Swoopes-Thompson trio?

A: What comes to mind is Olympians and championships, because they’ve all won that. If I put on my USA basketball hat, I get very excited about those three players. Sitting here in Seattle, those are the kind of players we’re up against. The players that have been around like a Wendy who’s … and they’ve all be successful in their careers. You’re trying to reach that, you’re trying to get a little bit of what makes them tick. Extreme desire and passion for the game and for the ultimate prize, which is the championship.

Q: (Inaudible)

A: Barbara’s another subject we can speak all day on. We were really thrilled to acquire Barbara in the draft. What we saw from her at Connecticut is a very tough, hardcore player that has that gene … it’s a relentless gene that I think Tamika Catchings had … very few players in the game, where they just go after every possession. And I think Barbara has that. The biggest challenge for Barbara is transitioning from the 4 position into the perimeter, the 3 spot. She does so very well offensively. Defensively, we still have some work to do there, just to get her habits out of the paint. But she’s done a very nice job for it. I expect her to be a great rookie in this league.

And in terms of other rookies of impact – Seimone Augustus, fresh on my mind coming off a beating in Minnesota on Saturday. Just tremendous player, and I think those are the kind of college kids that are coming into the league these days. The top picks anyway. And they all come in with very little adjustment periods if necessary. Simone Augustus, in her first two exhibition games, scored almost 60 points combined and just does not look [un]comfortable and is not missing a beat in terms of what she gives to the Lynx on the floor. She’s certainly a tough … player that’s going to make a tremendous impact.

Q: (Inaudible)

A: I think that’s what sets Seimone Augustus a part is that she’s going to have impact at both ends. She’s so versatile, she’s such a great shooter, she’s scoring in their system and then on her own. And defensively she’s got her size – 6-1 – is a big perimeter player that can stick with speed and is also strong enough that she can play the post-up game. Simone is just a special player. A lot of the other picks in this league have specialties. Pondexter is a great point guard; Currie, I think, is a great offensive player. But Augustus is the one of that whole group of good rookies that just has it all. She has it at both ends of the floor.

Q: Do you need your team to player “bigger” because of the injuries and how hard can Lauren go at the present time?

A: Definitely with Wendy – although the role we signed her in was a complementary role to Lauren or JB playing well with either one of them, and even toyed with the idea of moving her to the 3 spot at one point – so I like her size. She plays so hard and she’s so fundamental. And I think the older players are fundamental. That’s how they get it done, that’s how they survived the league for ten years. So Wendy does … she’s been rebounding the ball so consistently for us. In Barbara, the same thing. We have avoided putting her into the post at all. We’ve posted her up from a perimeter standpoint but we’ve avoided moving her back inside at all in any way, shape or form, but her size and her strength will help us. LJ … she’s been limited to practicing every other day for an hour. Her minutes in our exhibition games … the Minnesota game she played – it was a back-to-back for us, she didn’t play in the one game, she played in the second game – for 25 minutes. And so my commitment is that her minutes will come down from the 36 she’s played for us to about 30. We hope that once the season starts to roll she will be able to play in back-to-back situations. Currently through training camp for the last six months she has not been playing on consecutive days. She is not in her ultimate groove, which only comes from repetition and being on the floor, but I have to say she’s mighty good when she’s out there.

Q: You’re one of three women coaches in this league. Why haven’t more women made the jump to the NBA?

A: We’re aware of there are three female coaches in this league, so you can say that there’s been awareness of it. I really hope that we’ll cycle back. When this league started, we gave several women opportunities, and it seemed that those opportunities were not successful, and so the trends just flipped … has gradually increased to the men coaching in the league. I’d like to see that cycle come back. The thing is a little bit of a concern is what you talked about is that if women are not getting the opportunity to be assistant coaches then they aren’t getting the experience in the league at all, then it’ll make it even tougher for those hires to happen. I think it’s a fit. There’s definitely something to be said for somebody in the professional game … coming from the NBA versus the college ranks to the WNBA. There’s a really specific fit for the professional ranks that not the greatest of college coaches make for a good fit here. But I would like to see the cycle spin back. I just think that number one -- the best person for the job – I firmly believe that. The second thing to that is that there are a lot of great women coaches out there, and I’d like to have that opportunity for us.

Q: What was your impression of Nicole Ohlde? Talk about your role as head coach of the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team?

A: I think if I were around those potential U.S.A. players for a long period of time then it might be a concern. But I’m with them for such a short period of time, I relish that time with the greatest players in the league, Nicole being one of them. She’s got tremendous footwork. She’s got such great feet, great right and left hand. She’s got a savviness about her game that belies her age. And that kid, she’s going to be a great player in this league. She’s got the work ethic to back it up. I enjoyed the time with Nicole.

Q: What sets Leslie, Swoopes and Thompson apart?

A: More than anything, you walk into a practice, they rise to the top of every drill, of every practice. Ultimate competitors, ultimate professionalism, and just discipline. It’s so clear of when you watch each practice, what players like Dawn and Sheryl and Lisa, they just are so above everybody else with their work ethic. And that to me sets them apart because preparation is the biggest part to being able to stay at top of this game. You’re best players in this country have it, Lauren Jackson has it – so it separates the great from the good.

Q: What about Sheryl Swoopes game makes her so extraordinary?

A: Besides her work ethic, Sheryl, still at her age, to be able to pick passes off – one of the best defenders. And again, go to her head, it’s not so much her speed any more, it’s just how smart she is as a player, her timing. She had struggled in the offseason with an injury to her knee and she came up to the National team and hadn’t practiced in over a month and struggled through a couple of practices, trying to get her timing back. But when the lights came on and we put our uniforms on for the first competitive game, Sheryl’s leading the way and drilling it from the outside. So gamer … she’s a total gamer.

Q: And Lisa Leslie?

A: Leslie is one of the best back-to-the-basket players to ever play the game. She can dominate a game at both ends because of her strength – she’s got tremendous strength upper and lower body, which a lot of players of her stature don’t have tremendous upper body strength – but she’s got both. And great feet, mobility in her feet that make her very difficult to defend. And then defensively, she can throw a shot into the third row and set the complete tempo for you defensively. So she’s just dominating on both ends.

Q: Does lack of job security in the WNBA discourage women coaches from making the jump?

A: No question about that.

Q: Does that explain the ratio (of men to women)?

I don’t think it’s impacting the ratio, I think that because there’s so many women coaching the college ranks … the women that are making a very significant salary in the college ranks are looking at salary comparisons and job security and all that … there’s a whole selection of tremendous women college coaches that might not … the pool is too big to make that assumption.

Return to Top of Page

Richie Adubato
Washington Mystics

Opening Statement: The Mystics will hopefully be very competitive in the league this year. We’ve added some people to our team, we’ve added Latasha Byears, we added Crystal Robinson and Nikki Blue, my draft pick, and Tamra James, another draft pick. So we’ve added some defensive and some rebounding and some shooting. We made a trade and got Nikki Teasley at the point, so we’ll have a big backcourt with Alayna Beard and Nicki Teasley. Get the defense from Crystal Robinson, moving DeLisha Milton back the four, her original position where she’ll feel more comfortable. And then we have Chasity Melvin at the center who played very well in the second-half of the season. Upfront we’ll make a decision shortly on the backup centers which could Kaayla Chones or Nakia Sanford. The parity in the East is obvious. Last year we were one game short of making the playoffs – we lost the tiebreaker to Detroit. I feel that Connecticut would probably be a favorite in most polls because they’ve been in the finals three years in a row. They have a team that’s been together and they’re led by some veteran players, especially Taj-McWilliams at center, and Asjha Jones and then Sales and Douglas, it’s a good group. And Detroit, with Katie Smith coming over at the end of the season, and Katie Smith along with Nolan and Swin Cash, who’s coming off a ACL last year – probably will be at 100%. Then up front they’re very very big with Ford and Riley and Braxton and Pierson. So I think you have to give the nod to those two teams. I think there’s tremendous parity. I think everybody has a chance to make the playoffs in the East and then of course what happens after that will be determined by how well you play.

Q: Talk about Vickie Johnson?

A: Well I think number one she’s a professional. She plays hard every night. She practices hard every day. She’s a fierce competitor, but a silent fierce competitor that coaches love because they don’t brag about anything, they just go out and do it every night. She could play twos or threes defensively; will make the clutch shot and clutch threes when you need them. She also is a great foul shooter under pressure at the line at the end of the game. She is also a leader, but she grew into a leader because she’s a quiet person as the years went by, but in my last year with her she stepped up and was more verbal. And of course people will listen to you in a leadership role if you give 110% every night, you play hard and you understand the game. She’s one of my favorite players, she’s a player you’re going to win a lot of games with because she’s going to bring it every night and she has excellent basketball IQ.

Q: Talk about Crystal Robinson?

A: She was playing last year with a broken finger on her right hand. She was operated on at the end of the season … so that is completely healed. She had no problems in Russia with that hand. She brings great defense, most underrated. So happy to have her because we had problems with threes last year so we know that will be solved this year. Still has a very quick release on the three point shot and still makes big threes … and also is a veteran player who will give you leadership off the floor … and will make the pressure foul shot at the end of the game.

Q: Talk about Teasley; talk about her and Beard in the backcourt together?

A: … We know that she’s been a three-point shooter that shoots a high percentage. She’s a pure point guard with a lot of size, bigger than most point guards in this league who has the ability to create for other people. Tremendous handle, excellent passer, sees the floor, so in transition hopefully we’re going to be able to get out and run and get much easier baskets than we have in the past.. What I’m looking for is the big backcourt – because we’re not going to be big upfront with what we start with – with Alana Beard and Nikki Teasley in the backcourt we’re counting on them to rebound for us. They’ve got good size to get 4 or 5 rebounds for us and reel out and push the ball. When they team up, you’re going to have an exciting tandem because of the passing ability of Teasley and the scoring ability of Beard, which I think will improve this year …so we’re looking forward to that backcourt.

Q: (Inaudible) About Westhead’s fast break philosophy.

A: Well the system worked great as we know at Loyola Marymount where they averaged 110 a game and it took them a long way. And he believes in the system. Any time a coach believes in a system, the players will probably carry it out. I think it’s an exciting brand of basketball because it is resource, it is transition. I think it’s exciting for the fans because they’ll push the ball, they’ll shoot threes. I think it will work well in the WNBA. I think that there team has the ability to push the ball … so I think he’ll do a lot for that franchise, he’ll bring a lot of excitement to Phoenix.

Return to Top of Page

Paul Westhead
Phoenix Mercury

Opening Statement: My pleasure to start the season with the Mercury; we’re hopefully rounding into form. All of our players -- almost all of our players -- have arrived. Kamila Vodichkova arrived yesterday from the Czech Republic, so we’re going to try to get her into gear this week in preparation for our opener on Saturday. We had a couple of interesting exhibition games. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the services of Kelly Miller or Dee Taurasi for two of those exhibitions. It’s really hard to say how we’re going to step into the season but their injuries are mending and I think we’ll be ready to go come Saturday in Sacramento. The players have worked very hard. I’m pleased with their effort. Being new into the league, it’s really hard to have expectations beyond “Let’s find out what happens on Saturday” and then we’ll know what we know we need to do as we enter into the important season. But, I’m happy. I like the effort of my team.

Q: What is Taurasi’s injury and how long could she be unavailable?

A: She came to camp about ten days after we started, practiced a couple of days and looked fine. And then she kind of pulled what they’re calling a high-thigh hip-flexor area muscle – wasn’t a result of a collision or anything – and they just … it’s her left leg … they just kind of shut it down to kind of rest and get it cleared up. She hasn’t practiced … she’s done some shooting with us … but she hasn’t practiced full tilt for about a week now. It’s getting better and we have a few more days … I anticipate she’ll be ready to go on Saturday.

Q: How long does it take teams to “get” your run-and-gun philosophy?

A: Well that varies from team to team. [Learning] what it is can be done in a couple of days. The actually physical adjustment of playing at that pace takes longer and the mental adjustment, as I have said in the past, can take a week, a month or a lifetime. You either get it and start playing that way or you … say I don’t think I can get it. I would say the players that I have for this training camp, they’re in the pursuit of it. They haven’t nailed it down yet, but they’re going in a forward direction rather than with the breaks on.

Q: It’s not a gender thing, right?

A: I don’t think at all. I think … quickness has something to do with it. It’s the willingness to do this over and over again …it takes a certain type of player, yet all players can get involved and do it once they get in the groove.

Q: Why did you want to coach in the WNBA?

A: Just time and place. The opportunity came up. I was intrigued by the possibility of how my style of play … would work in the women’s game. I said there’s only one way I’m going to find out. And I still don’t know the answer to that but it’s sure like an adventure for me and it will be for them. And it’s going to be something that really works and shakes things up or we may struggle with it. If it were that automatic, it’d be a no- brainer and everyone might try it. There’s a high risk with this system … I’ve never coached women and I thought this would be a perfect chance to try it.

Q: Talk about Cappie Pondexter?

A: Cappie Pondexter has had a very good training camp and preseason exhibition series. I played her significant minutes probably more than I anticipated entering into the preseason games, thought I’d ease her in. But with the absence of Taurasi playing in the exhibition, I started Cappie in both our games and she’s played very well. I would say particularly of note is late in games when you need somebody to step up and come off a screen, make a shot or create their own shot, she’s done it three or four times already and hasn’t even blinked, [like] “This is what I do.” I couldn’t be happier. I think she still has a high learning curve just adjusting to the professional game, to older, stronger, more experienced opponents. I think her offensive game … she’ll adjust to that. It’s not like she’s going to have a long learning curve. I think she’s going to be ready to go really quickly.

Q: How does this team compare to others that you’ve coached?

A: It’s hard to tell, because the teams that I’ve coached in this running game you never know preseason and sometimes 2-3-4 maybe 5 games into the regular season. And then right about game 4 or 5 it’s beginning to click or its not. So there’s that little benchmark around game 4 or 5. If we’re not showing the great running skills in the first game or two or three, I wouldn’t be overly concerned – I’d be happy if we did it in the first three minutes – it takes a while for them to get their game speed down and you can practice forever, but you have to get into the habit during games.

Return to Top of Page

Bill Laimbeer
Detroit Shock

Opening Statement: Our last preseason game is tonight in Houston … looking forward to getting up and done. Things are going pretty well for us in training camp. We’ve avoided the injury bug which is a big positive for us or any team going into training camp. We’ve had our normal bumps and bruises, but for the most part we’re healthy and ready to go. We’re still waiting on a player or two ... but other than that, I like our team. But it doesn’t matter if I like them or not, it’s up to the players and we talked to them a lot about that this year. This is the year the players have to stand up and they like their team and each other, the chemistry is outstanding. But it’s still up to them and they know it and they’re going to do all the talking this year.

Q: Is Swin Cash back at one hundred percent?

A: Her speed is back, her endurance is back, more importantly her state of mind is back which is a big positive … there will be days where you’ll always have a little bit of soreness, but the soreness is not interfered in any way shape or form with how she plays on the basketball court. She really is anxious to get going. She’s basically gone a whole, year and a half without playing really competitive basketball at her level. Quite frankly, she’s ready to go. She wants to play real games that really matter.

Q: Talk about interior players that speak to your style and importance of Katie Smith?

A: When we first set this team up a few years ago, it was set up for playoff basketball – rebounding, interior baskets, getting the other team in foul trouble, and we’re no different than we were then. The changes from where we won the championship to last couple of years has been on the perimeter …. And also the trade for Katie Smith last year was for two things: one, to eleviate some of the pressure off our interior by having the three-ball threat. And second, to add another veteran because we still were young then, someone that can settle us down and not turn the ball over.

Q: Is Ford the best rebounder in women’s basketball right now?

A: Oh absolutely she might be the best rebounder right now. You know, Lisa Leslie she’s got a couple of years on her … Cheryl’s coming into her time right now, her timing and rebounding is wonderful. But I think you’re going to see a little bit more Cheryl Ford this year, especially on offense. We’re watching her in practice and having her translate that into the games situations so far this year. Her confidence in scoring and taking the ball to the basket, you can see a different woman this year and it’s been a great transition to watch.

Q: Talk about the evolution of the game?

A: The Shock came in with a different style of play … and we opened up a lot of eyes that there are different ways to get the job done. The draft has added good players and sound players to the league … plus the teams have taken more of a business approach to how they build their ballclubs.

Q: Where would you say the game is chronologically (60’s)?

A: From a league perspective, you are correct. From an on court, I’d equate it to the early 80s, where you have this transition to a higher-paced basketball, talented and marquee players coming out of college. The depth of these teams right now is at its peak. It’s very very difficult to get a roster spot in this league.

Q: What has the WNBA done for high school and college athletics?

A: Oh magnificent job. Before I got promoted to the WNBA, I was coaching girls AAU …checked out at 14s. You can see it there, the growth, the explosion … part of it is Title IX .. the other part of it is the WNBA has a foothold in the United States... They can point to something … that has really created a single focus sport in the younger ranks.

Return to Top of Page

Mike Thibault
Connecticut Sun

Opening Statement: Anxious to get the season started on Saturday. I guess we have a little bit of a target on our back, but according to the experts we’re not going to win again, so that’s good by me, I like that one. It’s been interesting training camp in that we’ve probably brought in few more younger players than we have the last couple of years to take a look at some and maybe try to change our bench a little bit. Our veterans is an established, experienced group. I think that they’re going to carry the load for our team if it’s possible. I think we’re a better team than we were last year. It’s going to be very hard to duplicate the record we had last year. The league keeps getting better every year, but we’re happy with where we are with our team, the progress has been good and we’re just kind of anxious to get going.

Q: How did you feel when the league started (skeptical?)

A: I don’t think I was ever skeptical, I just think that there was not a problem with having talent, there was never a problem with having good basketball teams on the court. The biggest problem when you have start-up leagues is whether the people involved in the league and the people outside the league have the patience to give it a chance. And I think that’s the biggest thing. You know, people forget … they talk about attendance at 8 or 9,000 … it took the NBA 20 years to reach that number. I think that what we see now arriving at ten years is that if you let something grow and nurture it, keep doing things the right way, it will continue to get better… the talent level each year gets better in our league. I think I mentioned a year ago that I used to think a generation of players – as far as improvement and level of play – probably was every 6 or 7 years. Right now in our league I see them every 2-3 years. We have so many good young players coming in our league ready to make an impact in the league that it shows you how much the game is improving. The size, the athleticism, the speed – all gets better on a constant basis so I’m optimistic with where everything’s headed.

Q: Talk about generational “gap” … players closer together in years, know each others games better …?

A: I think that’s true. You have each draft over the last 3-4 years all these kids have played against each other or with each other even, with USA teams or all-star teams. So I think the confidence level. I even saw it with the USA basketball group … Candace Parker, Augustus, Pondexter … they’re mixed in with veteran pro players and there’s not as big a gap as there used to be. They’re more ready mentally and physically to step up and start playing with them.

Q: Lindsay Whalen’s healthy?

A: Big progress the last ten days or so. She started practicing last week, she has been able to go through five straight 5-on-5 practices. I’m a little more confident she can play this weekend in our opening game. If you would have asked me that 3-4 weeks ago, I was not that confident. We’ll see how the next couple of days go. She’s been able to get knocked down, get up and realize that she can take that bumping and hitting and be ok with it. She’s not at 100% speed yet, but she’s getting closer every day, so there’s been a lot of progress over the last week.

Return to Top of Page

Van Chancellor
Houston Comets

Opening Statement: We’re really excited about celebrating our tenth anniversary; we’re really looking forward to it in Houston. I was doubly looking forward to it to about 5 days ago. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a team... that’s just snakebit with injuries … when we get all our players healthy, I really like this team. I like its attitude …

Q: Comment on your personal 10-year anniversary….

A: In 1997 I moved to Houston, Texas never dreaming this league would last ten years, and its been the best 10 years of my life. It’s been a wonderful experience; everything about it … but this league has been everything I ever dreamed it would be and much much more. The players are better so what a wonderful time.

Q: Three significant changes to the WNBA?

A: I think the first major change since I came into the league is the talent level. The players can just do so many things and they’re better, they’re taller they’re quicker .. the game has improved overall. I still think that another thing that has changed in the league is coaching. I think the coaching has gotten much better, there are people out of the NBA, the college game … so when you think about that … our fans knowledge of how we play and why we’re playing and whatnot has greatly improved, so all of those things add pluses to our league.

Q: Talk about the lack of female coaches in the WNBA?

A: When I started, I didn’t count how many female and male coaches there were. When I ended, I didn’t count. I don’t get up and think about it.

Q: Has the improvement come from more talent or more players knowing how to play the game?

A: Both of them. When we got the ABL players in here, the explosion of talent went crazy. First of all, our players now understand the game, they watch the game … players watch the game, they study the game, and now you’ve got players 6-2 or 3 that can do a lot of different things.

Q: What’s the best thing about the women’s game?

A: They play it for the pure love of the game. We don’t make $15 million a year. We’re out there playing because we love it, we want to excel … you’ve got those purists and they’re a lot of fun to coach.

Return to Top of Page