WNBA President Val Ackerman joined WNBA.com for a live chat on Wednesday, September 10 at 4 p.m. ET.
With the WNBA Finals tipping off on Friday, September 12, Ackerman shared her thoughts on the 2003 WNBA Playoffs and the league's seventh season, plus what lies ahead for 2004 and more.
Find out what Ackerman had to say.
Val Ackerman: Good afternoon, everybody, and thanks for joining us today. We have a great weekend looming, with two of the most exciting teams in the WNBA competing for the 2003 Finals trophy. We’ll be opening up on Friday in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, with Game 2 scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. on ABC, and then it’s back to ESPN2 on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. if the series goes to three games. We couldn’t ask for more -- the defending champion against the team with one of the best turnarounds in the history of pro sports, lots of great players, and two talented coaches sporting impressive playing resumes of their own. So be sure to tune in!
What have been your favorite moments of 2003? How does this season compare to the others?
Val Ackerman: The competition this year has been the best the WNBA has ever seen. I’ve enjoyed watching our great veteran players continue to perform at a high level (players like Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Nykesha Sales, Chamique Holdsclaw and Dawn Staley have all had strong seasons), but it seems like they are increasingly tested by the up-and-coming players (Tamika Catchings, Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Swin Cash). There have been so many memorable finishes to games this year that it’s impossible to single any out, but I thought the playoff series involving Detroit/Cleveland, Houston/Sacramento, and Sacramento/Los Angeles were outstanding. And Minnesota’s win over LA in the First Round in the West was thrilling to watch. Finally, our All-Star Game in New York in July was everything we could have hoped for – a great crowd and a great game.
What do you feel about the Shock going "worst" to "first"?!?!?
Val Ackerman: It’s been amazing! I’m not entirely surprised, though – I had several conversations with Bill Laimbeer during the offseason, and can attest that a great deal of thought and effort went into the many player personnel moves the Shock made before the season started. Bill is not only very knowledgeable about the game, but he is extremely competitive, and he’s been very effective in motivating the Shock players to win. And of course, he has great talent – it’s been especially exciting to see Deanna Nolan “break out” this year and to watch Swin Cash move so effortlessly into a leadership role.
What's it like to hand out the Finals trophy to the players who have just won it all and with the confetti coming down? Is that one of your favorite moments as President?
Val Ackerman: It’s a little nerve-wracking sometimes because so much is going on around you, but I’m always so happy for the winning players, coaches and team personnel. But the best part is seeing and hearing the reaction of the fans.
What are the main areas of focus for the league going to be in the offseason?
Val Ackerman: We expect to spend the bulk of the offseason working with our teams on their ticket sales efforts and on all sorts of promotions designed to increase the league’s exposure. The most important challenge in front of the league is to increase our fan base, both in arena and on television, and the good news is that many people are starting to recognize how exciting women’s pro basketball is and how appealing our players are. We will also be closely following the women’s college basketball season, since a number of this year’s seniors are expected to play in the league next summer and there is so much anticipation surrounding players like Diana Taurasi, Alana Beard and Nicole Powell.
Could we possibly see a team in the state of Tennessee or in the San Jose/Oakland area?
Val Ackerman: We expect to add teams to the WNBA in the future, and are now in the process of exploring ownership opportunities in several markets. While nothing is imminent in either Tennessee or the Bay Area, I believe that both markets hold great potential for the WNBA, and it’s very possible that we will have teams in either or both areas in the future.
If you were to be granted one wish for the WNBA, what would it be?
Val Ackerman: I’m still waiting for our first Sports Illustrated cover!
when will the 2004 draft lottery be held? thank you for your help.
Val Ackerman: We expect to conduct the lottery for the six non-playoff teams sometime this fall, with the 2004 Draft to be held in mid-April of next year. The finalized dates will be posted on wnba.com.
Would the league ever allow an American player who never played in college in the league, i know that the foreign players can come over to the states at a younger age, but can this happen if you are from the US??
Val Ackerman: Under the terms of our Collective Bargaining Agreement with our Players Association, players born in the United States or who play college basketball in the United States are eligible to play in the WNBA once their college class has graduated. International players who are born and currently residing outside of the United States and who have played professionally for two full seasons can be eligible to play in the WNBA the year that they turn 20.
Maeja, kent wa:
Hi Val, What do you think of this year's draft, possibly the best ever?
Val Ackerman: I can tell you that lots of people in the WNBA are already looking forward to it! It truly seems to be deep and talented, and I’m very sure that several 2004 draftees will make an immediate mark in the league.
Dana (Four Oaks, NC):
How do you plan to work the 2004 season around the Olympics?
Val Ackerman: While we’re still ironing out the details, it’s increasingly looking like we will suspend play during the Olympics so that our players will have the opportunity to represent their respective national teams without their WNBA teams suffering competitively as a result. That may require us to play later than in previous years, since we expect to start the season in our standard late-May timeframe. We expect to have specifics later this fall.
Helen (San Diego):
Do you still play basketball ever? Any of the current WNBA players that remind you of yourself in your playing days?
Val Ackerman: My basketball these days is limited to games of “Horse” and “Around the World” with my daughters! I was a 5-10 small forward in college, so I don’t know that I have an exact match in the WNBA, but if you did a scouting report on me it would probably read, ‘Decent outside shot, plays hard, watch out for the elbows.’
As always, thanks to all of you for your interest and support. WNBA fans are truly the best in sports! Be sure to join us this weekend for what I know will be an incredible finish to a fantastic season!