Boucek Returns to Storm Family
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | January 21, 2010
The Seattle Storm welcomed a familiar face back to the Storm family Thursday, when Jenny Boucek was named to the new position of director of player development and scouting. Boucek spent three seasons in Seattle as an assistant coach and was on the sidelines as the Storm won the 2004 WNBA championship. An opponent over the last three years in her role as head coach for the Sacramento Monarchs, Boucek is excited to return.
"You don't go back somewhere you don't feel good about, so obviously I feel really good about the time I spent there and the organization, the city and the team," said Boucek. "Then I also look forward to working with Brian (Agler) and Nancy (Darsch). So there are lots of reasons to be excited, but I think most of all is just what I feel I'm signing up to be a part of. You always want to be a part of something you believe in, and when you really believe in what you're a part of, everything else just falls into place. I've always believed in the Storm organization and know first-hand it's a wonderful thing to be a part of."
While the Storm organization has undergone major changes since Boucek left after the 2005 season, there are still familiar faces on the roster. Sue Bird, Janell Burse and Lauren Jackson remain from the 2004 championship team, while Boucek coached Tanisha Wright during Wright's rookie season. She much prefers coaching them to being on the other side.
"I absolutely hated coaching against them for multiple reasons," Boucek said. "First, because I care about them and I want them to be successful. It's hard to coach against people you really want to see succeed and you enjoy watching them succeed, so there's a little bit of tension there. But also I hated coaching against them because I respect them so much as athletes and competitors and I know what they are able to do. You knew you were going up against great players who are special in a lot of ways and capable of a lot."
Those players and other friends in the organization ensured that Boucek continued to follow and support the Storm even while she was coaching the Monarchs.
"Sacramento was an awesome experience and they had my whole heart for sure," she said, "but I also had an eye toward what was going on in Seattle because we had such a good experience together, we won a championship together. That's something that binds you on a different level. I was always watching their games on TV, reading the newspaper following them and cheering for them from afar when we weren't playing against them."
Some things, Boucek noticed from afar, remained the same as what she remembered - the Storm's success on the floor and passionate fan support in the stands.
"The organization has done an incredible job of bringing in good pieces," she said. "Clearly, some pieces are not the same that were big pieces from the '04 team, but I think they've done a really good job and they have a really good feel for the pieces they need to be successful. Even though there's changes in ownership, there's some changes in players, there's some changes even in the coaching staff, there also has been a lot of continuity and a lot of consistency in their success, which is hard to do in this day and age and in this league.
"Also, knowing from experience the home-court advantage of KeyArena and being on the winning side of that, the home side of that, going in as an opponent, that was another factor that you were going up against as well as a good team and a good coaching staff. I was just happy that with the change in ownership they could keep that environment because it's such a special environment in women's basketball."
Along with the players, another close tie in Seattle is Darsch, the Storm's assistant coach and an instrumental figure in Boucek's coaching career. It was Darsch who gave Boucek her first shot at coaching in the WNBA as a volunteer assistant despite never having coached.
"I am forever grateful," Boucek said. "I love coaching in the WNBA, and I may not be doing that if not for Coach Darsch. She gave me an opportunity to come work for her in Washington when I did not have one day of coaching experience. I was 23 or 24 years old, not a day of coaching experience, and she hired me to help her. We didn't really know each other except that she'd coached against me in the WNBA and also when she was at Ohio State, we played against them when I was at Virginia several times.
"She's supported me ever since and been one of the people in this business that I trust and really respect. I don't exactly understand why she hired me in the first place, but she did. You'll have to ask her why, but I am forever grateful and have wanted to do anything I can to show her my respect and appreciation and gratefulness."
Boucek and Agler have never worked together, but she gained an insight into and respect for his style while coaching against him.
"I think it's hard to fake it in this business," she explained. "When you scout against somebody and you're coaching against them, you're competing against them, whether it's on a player level or a coach level, you know better than anybody who you respect and who you think is good and who you'd like to learn from. Brian has always been one of those coaches you know is good."
Through mutual friends Sandy Brondello and Olaf Lange, who were assistants alongside Agler under Dan Hughes in San Antonio, Boucek got a better understanding of Agler's personality and his character.
"They're close friends of mine," said Boucek. "They gave a first-hand recommendation and reference that is important as well, because you don't really know somebody until you work with them. Those guys worked with him and can't say enough good things about who he is as a man, a coach and a leader."
As she returns to Seattle, Boucek has the additional perspective of now having worked as a head coach and taken the Monarchs to the playoffs twice to go along with her extensive experience as a WNBA assistant. She learned a lot from the chance to be in charge and feels she improved as a coach.
"It was a wonderful learning experience," Boucek said. "Ron Rothstein used to say to me all the time when I was working for him in Miami, 'Everything changes when you're six inches over.' You won't understand and you won't be able to learn certain things as an assistant coach. You can get to a certain point of preparing and learning, but the rest of it you cannot learn without just doing it. You jump into the deep end and you have to learn. You learn along the way, you make a lot of mistakes, and you hope to learn from them. Hopefully it will make me even better in helping Brian and Coach Darsch because I've been on that side. Hopefully I can be a better helper after being in the position of needing a lot of help."
In the new role of director of player development and scouting, Boucek will work with the Storm's players on an individual basis to help them improve. She will also take over responsibility for leading the team's scouting efforts, previously split among multiple assistant coaches. Most of all, Boucek sees her responsibility as filling in wherever the coaching staff needs her help.
"In pro sports, job descriptions are always really hard to define because you're part of a team," she said. "I am going to do whatever I can to help this team reach its full potential. I don't know exactly what it is. I'm going to come in and listen to my head coach and bring all I can and hopefully be able to fit where I'm needed."