Q & A with Coach Thibault
Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault has two Eastern Conference Championship titles under his belt. At the start of his fourth season with the Sun, Coach Mike is ready to have another go at the big title.
What are your general thoughts about the preseason and the upcoming season?Coach Thibault: I’m anxious to get the season started on Saturday. I guess we have a little bit of a target on our backs, 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 an interesting training camp in that we’ve probably brought in a 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 are 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? Were you skeptical?Coach Thibault: I don’t think I was ever skeptical. I just think that there was never a problem with having talent and 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 six or seven years. Right now in our league, I see them every two to three 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.” Do players who are closer together in years know each others games better?Coach Thibault: I think that’s true. In 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 (it helps) 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: Is Lindsay Whalen healthy?Coach Thibault: Big progress the last ten days or so. She started practicing last week and 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.