April 15, 2005

A Coach’s Perspective on the WNBA Draft

  • Draft Central

    The effect of a draft can have a lasting impact on a team. A successful draft can turn the fortunes of the franchise around, making them instant contenders, energizing an entire city. Drafting a player who has the ability to turn the Silver Stars into perennial playoff contenders is the challenge that is currently facing Head Coach Dan Hughes, Chief Operating Officer Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil and the rest of the Silver Stars basketball operations staff as they prepare for the upcoming WNBA Draft.

    Having coached in the WNBA for five seasons with the Cleveland Rockers and Charlotte Sting, Hughes is no stranger to the impact that a draft can have on a franchise. The new Stars coach knows that selecting a player who will have an immediate impact on a team takes hard-work, a great deal of time, and a concentrated team effort when it comes time to make the selection.

    “You are always preparing for the draft,” Hughes said. “From the minute you stop playing the season before. In my case I started preparing for this draft the second that I was hired.”

    In preparing for the draft, Hughes first identified the needs he felt the Silver Stars had to address on the floor to improve the squad. Right away it was obvious to Hughes that reliable perimeter shooting and a solid post play were the two areas that were lacking the necessary depth and ability to take the Stars to the next level.

    Hughes recognized Janel McCarville from Minnesota, Tan White out of Mississippi State and Sandora Irvin as the most sought after players in the draft who he felt would be able to fill most glaring team needs immediately.

    With the fourth pick in the draft, there is no guarantee that the three players on Hughes’ wish list will still be on the board when the time comes for the Silver Stars to make their selection, so he realizes that the Stars will have to react to what the three teams ahead of him do with their picks. Even though the Stars won’t have first crack at the draft board, he is confident that the Stars will be able to find a player who will help the Stars right away.

    “This is not necessarily as deep of a draft as we have had before,” Hughes said, “but there is some depth at the post position in this draft.”

    The Stars lack of perimeter shooting and solid post play might make it seem that the Stars will only take a slick shooting guard or dominating post presence when they are on the clock, but Hughes does not resign to the idea that you have to draft based entirely on the needs of team.

    “Personally, I like to make decisions based on the best player available as opposed to drafting for need,” Hughes said. “When making a selection you have to look and say whether the player who meets the need of the team will raise the level of the team enough, and if the answer is no, then I think that you have to draft based on talent, regardless of need.” Hughes plays a major role in the draft process, but he is not solely responsible for who the Stars select on draft day. Davis-Wrightsil is the ultimate decision make on who the team plans on taking in the draft.

    “Clarissa represents the organization as the COO and has the area of personnel under her umbrella as far as what she is responsible for,” Hughes said. “My staff and I are very aware of the background of the players we are drafting, so there is more involvement in the decision making process on draft day in the WNBA that there is in the NBA.”

    Although this is the first year Hughes and Davis-Wrightsil have worked on a draft together, Hughes has brought a trusted aide along with him to San Antonio to help he and Davis-Wrightsil with their decision.

    “Most of the hard decisions that I have made in my career have come from watching hours and hours of tape on players,” Hughes said. “Watching game tapes of players has really driven all of the player personnel decisions in my career.”

    With the draft right around the corner, all of Hughes’ work leading up to the draft will result with the fourth selection in the 2005 WNBA draft. The question of whether the hard work has paid off or not will be answered when the Silver Stars open the season on May 21 vs. Houston.