Strong Roots Make Tree Rollins
Excited About the Mystics in 2008
At 7-foot-1, it's fair to say that Wayne "Tree" Rollins stands out. Even on the sidelines of a basketball court. But after 18 seasons in the NBA, several years as an assistant coach in the NBA and a head coaching stop in the D-League, Rollins' coaching is starting to stand out, too.
When Washington Mystics coach Richie Adubato stepped down after his team got off to an 0-4 start in 2007, assistant Rollins was given the job on an interim basis to finish the season. And the shot-blocker once known as "the Intimidator" took advantage of his opportunity, leading the Mystics to a 15-14 record the rest of the way and coming within a Liberty loss of qualifying for the playoffs. Having recently been handed the head coaching reins on a full-time basis, Rollins was secure in discussing his plans for the offseason and his hopes for 2008 with WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield.
Q. You were named interim coach of the Mystics on June 1 and helped to turn things around. After an 0-8 start, the team was in the running for a playoff spot until the final day of the season. What are your thoughts on your first season as a WNBA coach?
A. "I'm very pleased with the way we came back and regained some respect after a difficult start to the season. Our team didn't just lay down and die, and that really shows the character that our players and organization have. We didn't give up and we kept pursuing the real goal, which is winning a championship. I was very pleased with the way we played all the way through the last game of the season, when we got that win in Connecticut. You put that feather in your cap and every other team would love to have that.
"I was really pleased with our starters. AB (Alana Beard) just had successful shoulder surgery, so she's gonna be a lot better. The prognosis for her coming back is great… she should be ready to go in about another four weeks or so, so she should be good and ready for the start of the WNBA season. We'll be able to do a lot more things defensively with her now. Nikki T(easley) also came back to her old self. We had to limit her minutes a little bit at the start of the year, but she had a great second half of the season.
"Everything coming back looks great. We'll have a decent draft pick and if we can make the right guess -- based on the position we need to add -- that's going to make our bench better."
Q. What do you feel you need to work on as a team to take that next step and get back to the playoffs?
A. "No. 1 would be protecting our home court. We didn't do a good job of that last year. We were great on the road, but we didn't protect our home court. One of the main reasons for that was on the defensive side of the ball. We really need to play better defense.
"But I love our depth. We have GG (Gillian Goring) as a backup center, (Bernice) Mosby, who comes off the bench, Monique Currie, who we traded for early in the year… Once those players really get into the system, their performances should make us a better team."
Q. Do you have any plans for the offseason as far as player transactions are concerned? Is there one role or position you're really looking to address?
A. "I'm going to sit down with our GM Linda Hargrove and the ball is gonna be mostly in her court on that front. But we have an idea of what we want… just tip-of-the-iceberg thoughts: maybe another backup center with some experience. We also have to look at whether or not Nikki T is going to be able to come back and be a productive point guard. If not, will we look at Nikki Blue as a starter? We could.
"It's a tough call at this point to figure out exactly what we need and who we're going after, but we'll do whatever we can to improve our bench."
Q. Are you focused more on the draft or on pursuing someone in the free agent market?
A. "Once again, Linda is really the one who's weighing the options and making that decision. As a coach, you always feel like you want a player who's experienced. But whether or not we can find that player in free agency, especially without a new CBA yet and all of the questions that brings up, it's tough to say."
Q. Is there a player on your current roster to whom you're really looking for improvement in 2008? Is there someone there now who's capable of stepping up and taking her game to the next level?
A. "Oh, that's easy: Monique Currie. We made a big blockbuster trade to get her here early this season, so yes, we're definitely hoping she can step up and do more at the three spot. It's not that she had a bad year, but I think she'll be a lot more confident and a lot more settled next season. C'mon, it was her third team in two years! But now she knows that she has a home and she's coming back to a familiar area. So I'm sure she will step up next year."
Q. What about next year? Are you focused on getting back to the playoffs? Is that the next step up for the Mystics as a franchise?
A. "Yeah, obviously we need to get back to the playoffs, and then we think about moving on from there. We're always sizing up the other teams, especially in our conference. And we know that Margo Dydek from Connecticut is pregnant, so how will that affect the Sun next year? You're always looking for those advantages and wondering how every bit of news affects you.
"But going in, the teams we're shooting for are Indiana, Detroit and Connecticut. We feel like we have to move past them, and we'll do anything we need to do to accomplish that. I think we can do it with the team we ended the season with and I think we're capable of stepping over at least two teams. Beyond that, it will be a lot of luck and injuries. You never know."