2010 WNBA All-Star Game Press Conference and Conference Call
WNBA President Donna Orender
USA Women’s National Team Head Coach Geno Auriemma
Connecticut Sun Vice President & General Manager Chris Sienko
Donna Orender: “Good afternoon everyone. It’s indeed a pleasure to be here at the Mohegan Sun to officially announce on behalf of the WNBA that this year’s 2010 All-Star Game will take place at the Mohegan Sun. This is our second year in a row having it here, due to the great success and great relationship we have with the tribe and executives. The game will be held July 10, and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 3:30 PM ET. In addition, we made an announcement that this year we will have a unique twist in our format for the All-Star Game since it’s a World Championship year. All players will be selected in the same format as last year with fan voting. There will be five top players from each conference, within the WNBA vs. USA Basketball format. We are excited about this opportunity for our fans and to be working with USA Basketball.”
Chris Sienko: “From everyone here at the Mohegan Sun we are excited to host this year’s WNBA All-Star Game. We are extremely pleased to have USA Basketball part of this event. We know that all fans of women’s basketball will be eager to attend this year’s All-Star Game.”
Geno Auriemma: “Anytime you get an opportunity to be surrounded by the best players in the world, it’s an unbelievable event that’s about to happen. All-star games are made to showcase the players’ skill and the skills of these All-Stars are second to none. As part of the National Team, we now have an opportunity to accomplish a few things. We now have a game that allows the National Team to spend sometime together and play against a team that will be the best team we will be up against all year long. It’s a great event and it’s held in a perfect spot. The Connecticut Sun is the model franchise for the league and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
Q: Donna, what is the exact format for the WNBA All-Stars who get selected?
DO: “If a player that is selected for the WNBA All-Star Game is on the USA Basketball Team roster, they will play on that team. A player that is selected for the All-Star Game that is not on the USA-Basketball Team will be on the opposing All-Star roster.”
Q: Donna, All-Star Games are often played on the East Coast, will the game ever be moved to the West?
DO: “We remain open to having our All-Star Game and festivities in the best possible place we can. We want to make it accessible to all of our fans. We continue to have business discussions and long term planning. We will come up with a few cities down the road, with Connecticut in the rotation as well.”
Q: Geno, this is a chance for you to have your team together, is this considered a rare opportunity to have the team get to play together before the Championship?
DO: “Yes, it is. These players are stretched pretty thin, they play during the summer in the WNBA and then they play right up until training camp overseas. The windows that we can get together are very few. Having an opportunity to do this gives us a very competitive game so we can judge where we stand as a team.”
Q: Just to be clear, the fans will vote in five players from each conference and the USAB players not voted in would fill out the rosters, correct?
DO: “On the USAB side, correct. Here’s what’s happening: five and five [voted in from each conference]. Any players who are then announced as part of the National Team will be on the USA Basketball roster. The WNBA head coaches, as they have previously done, will have a voting process to select the remaining players.”
Q: Geno, how difficult of a responsibility is it for you to be coaching UConn as well as the USAB team? Also, can you give your thoughts on keeping a core group together instead of picking the roster three or four weeks before the World Championship begins?
GA: “I don’t have that many conflicts. My role with the National Team from October 15 through the Final Four, hopefully, is mainly over the phone. Carol Callan, who is our team director, handles the logistics and handles the day-to-day operations, so there’s really no impact on my role as the coach of Connecticut.”
“As far as the core goes, I think it’s really important that you have a group of players that want to play. That core that we announced, some of them have already won two Olympic rings. They know exactly what to expect. They know the routine. When you add the other four or five, or however many it will be, you’re not starting with a whole new group, which would make it really problematic going to a championship where the national teams spend months together. So that core really lives up to its name: it is the core [of our team]. It’s what we build around and for good reason. They’ve earned gold medals and have earned the right to be part of that core.”
Q: The announcement comes in the middle of the WNBA free agency period. What is your impression on how teams are navigating free agency to get players signed?
CS: “We have our plan in place, but those plans start long before we get to this stage. I think there are very few prizes out there, per se. I think there are some unrestricted free agents that are going back to their previous teams. From our perspective, we have a vision of where we want to go, which is what precipitated the [Lindsay Whalen-Renee Montgomery] trade and we’ll follow up in the next couple weeks with our free agency.”
DO: “My sense of the process is that everyone is fully engaged. Their phone lines are burning up all night. There’s a lot of coaching and general manager gamesmanship going on right now. I’m as interested as anyone to see how it all turns out in terms of where some of our available unrestricted free agents end up.”
Q: Are there any other changes to be made regarding All-Star activity? Can you talk about the present state of the league? It seems like everything has settled down from the offseason after the Tulsa and Sacramento announcements.
DO: “One of the reasons we wanted to come back to Connecticut is because of the engagement and enthusiasm Mohegan Sun has for this event. We will publish a schedule of events probably within 60 days, the sooner the better so that fans can make their plans.”
“With respect to the league, I always remain optimistic. Our business ended up on a very high note, led by fantastic play in our playoffs and Finals. Teams are having interesting discussions right now with new sponsors and I’m pleased about that. The league is also looking to close some new sponsorships that we’d probably announce after NBA All-Star. As long as we continue to have the talent develop – as Coach Auriemma says, you have to be great to win – the league benefits from that.”