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Behind Closed Doors

It's draft time and you'll be our guests as we visit the teams' draft war rooms during the live action on ESPN2 and You'll get to see first hand what's happening behind the scenes as the draft is in progress!

Ever wonder just how a coach goes about selecting a player in the draft? It must be one wild ride. There is only one coach and over a hundred players to chose from. There is a lot of things to factor in: draft order, needs of the team versus the talent available, short term versus long term goals, do you go for a trade and the list goes on and on. Here's your chance to find out what a coach goes through.

We spoke to three coaches -- Seattle, Miami and Phoenix -- to get straight from the horse's mouth just how they go about the selection process. Of course, they couldn't give up their trade secrets, but they did manage to clue you in on what goes on in the illusive war room -- the team's top-secret draft headquarters.


And it gets better. We enlisted the help of Houston Comets guard Coquese Washington. She's been on both sides of the fence as a player and a coach. The Comets won their fourth consecutive WNBA Championship in 2000 and as an assistant coach for Notre Dame, she helped lead the Irish to the 2001 NCAA title. We caught up with Washington in Chicago at Pre-Draft Camp and she gave us her thoughts on what she thinks will be going on behind the closed doors of the teams' war rooms.

Seattle Storm

Coquese says...
Seattle was plagued with injuries. They probably would have had a better year had their team been healthy. They have the first pick in the draft this year, so they control their own destiny. From what I understand, if Lauren Jackson enters the draft there's no doubt that Lin Dunn will select her and build her team around her. She's a great player, a young player with tons of talent. She's had a lot of success in Australia. She can step outside, she can shoot the 3-pointer, she can put the ball on the floor, and she can post up. Those are things that if you get a kid who's 19-20 years old, you want to build your team around. If she were available I would assume Dunn would pick her.

Seattle needs a post player. Lin Dunn has a very solid point guard in Sonja Henning. She's got two very athletic wings, who can put points on the board in Michelle Edwards and Edna Campbell. They need a solid player in the post, and that's where Lauren Jackson would fit in.

Now there is also the thinking that Edna Campbell and Michelle Edwards are veterans and she might want to go with younger wing like Tamika Catchings.

I think there are three players in the draft you could build your team around: Lauren Jackson, Ruth Riley and Tamika Catchings. These three players are talented enough that you could draft them, and expect them to make an immediate impact and therefore build your program around them.

So Lin Dunn may opt to go with a younger wing in Tamika Catchings, eventhough she plays the same position as Edwards and Campbell. The get a veteran post player via a trade. Lin Dunn has got tons of options with the number one pick.

Q&A with Storm Head Coach Lin Dunn

Q: Tamika Catchings, a player that hasn't been healthy, but if healthy is she worthy of a top pick?

Dunn Deal?
Lin Dunn talks about her plans for the Draft
28.8+ | ISDN+
"I'll be honest with you, I'm definitely considering her as a first pick, even injured, first of all her tremendous work ethic, she's a very gifted athlete, she can play the three, she's made that transition her senior year and was doing very well adjusting to that, she can go inside she can go outside, she's a tremendous defender. The thing I like about her, she rebounds. So I don't think that there is any doubt that Tamika, once she gets healthy, is going to be a franchise player. Tamika Catchings is a player you can build your franchise around. I think the interesting thing is people trying to decide if her value has gone down because she's injured, it's not a career ending injury there's no reason that she 's not going to come back and be 110% and play for 10 to 15 years, so you have to put her in the mix as somebody to build your franchise around."

Q: Talk about Lauren Jackson.

Dunn: "The interesting thing about Lauren is that she has achieved already so much and she's not even twenty years old, she won't be twenty until mid-May and has already captured the world by her performance in Sydney and her young years on the junior team in Australia. In my opinion, she has to be the consensus pick at number one. She's 6-5, she's mobile, she can score, she can go inside, she can go outside, she's mentally tough so of course she's considered right at the top."

Q: Let's say Lauren is in and obviously her trade value is so high. What's your philosophy on possibly getting her and trade her for other players?

Dunn: "I think you have to understand that as an expansion team, we approach things a little differently than say a team that is in it's fifth or fourth year. We are laying the foundation for the future of this franchise. We brought a really good core of people last year Edna Campbell, Sonja Henning, Charmin Smith, and Kamila Vodichkova - we've got our core now. We've got to grow that core. So what we're trying to do is build with this next draft it will take us in the very near future into the playoffs and accomplish a WNBA championship in the next five years. What we do now is very important. The person that we choose from that first pick is really the premiere player that we will build around. Do we want to build around a young player like Lauren Jackson, Abrosimava, or Catchings or do we want to take that trade and trade it for a few veterans that might not be here in the next few years. To tell you the truth, I'm leaning toward building around young players and I think in the next couple years we will have a great team."

Q: Sitting on the number one pick do you say the cream of the crop and not necessarily what you need?

Dunn: "In my mind the cream of the crop, the Jackson, the Catchings, the Abrosimova, the Ruth Riley, Stiles, they're going to bring to my team what I need. They're going to score; they're going to defend. My philosophy is to get the best player available. Don't worry about 'is this exactly the position I need' in the first round and then in the second round I will be more position oriented."

Q: Who do you think helped themselves in the NCAA tournament?

Dunn: "I think Ruth Riley did. I think her ability to continue to showcase her skills against a quick UCONN team and what she was able to do against Camille Cooper and being triple-teamed by Purdue. I thought Stiles' stock went up because she was finally on TV and seen all over America. I thought Katie Douglas' stock went up. Ivey at Notre Dame, in my opinion is perceived as the number one point guard in the draft.

I don't think that anybody's stock went down, but I do think that it helped those players who got to the center stage in the Final Four."

Q: What are your main considerations when you prepare for a draft?

Dunn: "First of all, making sure you've got as much information as possible. That old saying 'information is power.' I don't want to be surprised. I want to know everything there is to know about a player that I'm considering drafting. Attitude, commitment, everything, I just don't want to be surprised. I want to make sure we haven't overlooked somebody. That we've not accidentally just ignored somebody that's right there, especially in the second round. We all know who the top players are but who's our second pick that might have a tremendous impact on our program."

Q: What are the needs your looking to fill on your team?

Dunn: "We know we need more points. We know we need to score more points and get more rebounds and we think we need to get that from the small forward position and from the post position. So our priority is to get more points and rebounds from the three and the five."

Phoenix Mercury

Coquese says...
Phoenix is going to have a great season. They made it to the playoffs last season despite being hit with injuries to some key players. Assuming they get back everyone healthy, they will be loaded. Phoenix will be a tough team. It is a team you can not overlook to challenge for the Western Conference Championship.

I think what they'd be looking for is a young athletic wing. Eventhough they are talented in that position, they have players that are getting up in age. Tonya Edwards and Bridget Pettis are great players, but they're veterans. An infusion of young talent in the backcourt to come of the bench and help change the pace of the game and get their transition game going. Michele Timms, Bridget Pettis and Brandy Reed, they like to get up the floor.

Although, I don't she'd be available, Marie Ferdinand from LSU is definitely a player of that caliber. Rasheeda Clark from Pepperdine is also a player that I think could fit in their program. She is a very explosive guard. She's got to develop her shot to be more consistent but is a great defender.

If they get everyone back and healthy, Phoenix doesn't have to get a player that will come in and start right away, come in and change the whole dynamic of the team, or someone to build a team around. They just need a nice complementary player that can add to their chemistry, add a good attitude, come into practice and be willing to learn not only from the coach but the great players.

Q&A with Mercury Head Coach Cynthia Cooper

Q: Who do you think helped themselves in the NCAA Tournament?

Coop's Call
Cynthia Cooper talks about the upcoming Draft
28.8+ | ISDN+
Cooper: "Oh God, you have to say Ruth Riley, you got say Jackie Stiles, you definitely have to say Katie Douglas, Niele Ivey. They were players that were kind of borderline, people didn't really know."

Q: What is your strategy, you're sitting there at 13?

Cooper: "That's going to be tricky. We definitely want to take the best player available. We have certain needs and we definitely need a good solid backup guard. Will we be able to find that in the draft this year, will someone drop down to 13? I don't know that. We don't know that right now. But that will be the tricky part."

Q: What are the main considerations in preparing for the draft?

Cooper: "I think the main thing is knowing who is out there. Seeing them play, not only one game, not only at the draft camp but also throughout the season throughout the year, seeing them playing, seeing what they can actually do. Seeing them on their good days and seeing them on their bad days. And being able to gauge during the draft -- gauge what player will fit your needs based on what you've seen throughout the year."

Q: Do you have a rating system for players? Like they can play against me or they can't?

Cooper: "I have a rating system as in she's a player. Because there are some athletes that play the game and some athletes that live the game. When you see an athlete out there shooting by herself and everyone else is getting water or when you see an athlete running while everyone else is walking or when you have to meet at half court and everyone else is there, those are qualities I look for in a player because it's not just about the money. It's about the love, it's about the desire, and it's about the determination. That's not always seen out there when you're seeing them play different games. It's about the love of the game. That's kind of what I'm all about."

Q: What are your team's needs? What are you looking for?

Cooper: "We're looking for at 13, we're not real sure what we're gonna get but we could use a backup point guard. We would also probably at 13, pick the best athlete available. With the influx of the Australian players, we're not sure who's going to drive down the 13, what caliber of player and what position. That's why we're probably gonna just pick the best player available."

Miami Sol

Coquese says...
Miami struggled a little last year and at all positions. They have a great post player in Askamp. She had a pretty solid year. Bararonava was out due to a knee injury. Sandy Brondello didn't play because of the Olympics. They were missing two key players that would have contributed big dividends to their team. Those players are good for an additional 5or 6 wins right there.

They could use some help at point guard. Debbie Black missed a portion of the season to a back injury. A young guard that could play both 1 and 2 would be great for them. One of the Miller Twins, a player that can lineup at the 1 and the 2 and give them some versatility in the backcourt. They could look to get another 4 player Askamp is good with her back to the basket, she can also step out and shoot the freethrow jumper. She's good for them down on the blocks. So a player like Tamara Stocks or Barksdale would be a good fit for them, a 4-player who's versatile. Who can spot up at the free-throw line area and shoot the jumper, maybe put it on the floor and drive and able to defend. I looking for them to go for a 4, a nice backup point guard or a nice versatile guard that can play 1 or 2.

Q&A with Sol Head Coach Ron Rothstein

Q: What are you looking for in this draft?

Rothstein Reports
Ron Rothstein previews the 2001 WNBA Draft
28.8+ | ISDN+
Rothstein: "That's a very good question, but I'm not sure I have the answers yet. We could go a number of different ways. We know at 5, we're gonna get a good pick. We've had some teams behind us call us and ask us what would it take for them to get to 5. So we've had some discussions along that way. And in that regard, you could probably turn her in two for one. We like where we are at almost every position on the court. And also with our depth, so in the end, most likely we're going to take the best player available. But I don't want to wear out that clichT. At this point and time, I'm not sure what exactly we're going to do. We still have two weeks to go we still have more work to do in terms of finding out a little more about some of these players in depth. I think as players, we know who they are and what they are. I'm not so sure we know enough about them as people. And how they handle certain situations."

Q: What is your strategy for selecting players?

Rothstein: "It's all timing, depends on where you are as a team, how do you see your team. Sometimes you want someone else to blend in, sometimes you want someone else, who you're not so sure their going to blend in, and their a little bit individualistic, but they have superior talent and you might want to take a shot at that player because in the end, when it all breaks down, someone may have to get their own shot and anytime you can get a player to do that, even though that player may not be as coachable, even though that player may not blend in that well, even though that player might tilt the chemistry of your team, sometimes you need to take a shot at a player like that - if you think your on the threshold and you need someone like that to go to the next level, it's a big juggling act. And it's a best guesstimate so it would depend upon were you are as a team, how close you are to where you think you want to go and the people involved, that becomes major also."

Q: Who helped themselves, you believed the most, in the jubilee tournament?

Rothstein: "Obviously, Jackie Stiles, I think if you had to pick one player. I think she helped herself tremendously and I think Ruth Riley helped herself. It's pretty interesting, if she didn't make the last two foul shots in the end, I think at 5; she'd be there for me. I'm not so sure she's gonna be there right now. It's probably not the right way to make judgements about players but it happens all the time. Cause we're only human."

Q: Do you have a special system of rating players?

Rothstein: "Not really, there are certain things obviously to look for. I think coachability is big. I think it's very important. I've seen a lot of terrific players who are basically uncoachable. Those players very rarely become the kind of player that's really gonna help you win in professional sports. There are exceptions to the rule, talent, there's no substitute for talent and coachability, if you can get both, you've got the best of both worlds."

Q: What sort of considerations do you prepare for the draft?

Rothstein: "Sometimes we watch film together, as a group, most of the time we watch individually and then we'll meet every couple of days and sit down and say o.k. what did you see and we have a rating system and a sheet that we fill out and certain things we jot down but almost as important is what you can find out about the person that's really big, because you can have all the talent in the world and if someone is not gonna be the kind of person that doesn't want to help and fit in, it's going to be a distraction and it's going to hurt your team."

Talent abounds in draft class of 2001

2001 WNBA Draft to be held April 20

Australia's Lauren Jackson signs with WNBA

Washington to host Draft Day Cybercast

What the coaches are saying about the draft

2001 WNBA Draft prospects: by position

Official list of eligible draft prospects