Storm Q&A: Brian Agler
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | Oct. 6, 2010
Storm Head Coach Brian Agler made the trek to the Czech Republic last week to watch the preliminary rounds and the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Championship. With six Storm players representing their countries, it was a great opportunity for Agler to catch up with them shortly after they dispersed following the conclusion of the Storm's run to the championship. Agler talked to stormbasketball.com about what he saw while in Europe.
Stormbasketball.com: How was the trip?
Agler: It was a great trip. I had a chance to see all of our players. I got to see a lot of the better players around the world play. It was good for us because it was all in one setting. It was amazing how many people came up and congratulated me that don't even live in the United States. They pay attention to the WNBA and were really familiar with what was going on in our league and how our team was doing, those things.
Two things jumped out to me. A lady and her husband came up to me from France and just went on and on about how their favorite team is the Seattle Storm. They stay up late at night and listen to our games. They're on at 3:00 in the morning or 4:00, something like that. They listen to every one. Their goal in life is to take a trip to Seattle and watch us play in KeyArena. They were talking about the home game against Phoenix that was on national television, ESPN2, and how they couldn't hear what was going on because the crowd was so loud. They wanted to be a part of that.
The other thing is all the Russian contingent from Ekaterinburg coming up and how they were so proud of Svetlana (Abrosimova). I wasn't aware of this, but she's the only player from Russia - NBA or WNBA - that has ever been on a championship team. She told me the next day how she's all of a sudden turned into a celebrity over there because of that.
Do you think the Storm has a reputation as an international team with the history of foreign players on the roster?
I don't think there's any question. I think especially now, because five of our 11 players were international players this year. People consider Seattle comparable to a European city. It's probably as close as you can get for an American city from the standpoint of how vibrant the downtown is. A lot of European cities are on water or rivers. How compact the city is and how distinct some of the neighborhoods are and those type of things. The women's basketball community is not very big. People really keep track of what's going on worldwide. I think the experiences Svetlana had and Jana (Veselá) had, especially, it gets back in a hurry to the people over there - how much they enjoyed it, how the fans are, how enthusiastic KeyArena is on game night and those types of things.
Speaking of great crowds, how did you see fans respond to the host Czech Republic?
I saw them beat Australia and I also saw them lose to Spain. In both cases, the arenas were jam-packed and very enthusiastic - not quite to the level of Storm fans, but it was a great crowd. The game they played Australia, the president came to the game. That was interesting.
What do you think being part of a World Championship meant to Sue Bird and Swin Cash?
I think it meant a great deal to both of them. From Swin's standpoint, her being on that team, she's worked hard to put herself back in that position. To play such an important role on the team meant a lot to her. For Sue, being able to win that, I think it meant a great deal, especially playing with the teammates she was playing with and the coach she was playing for. I will say this. As far as comparing the two championships they just won, I would say the WNBA championship would not take a backseat to the World Championship, just from the standpoint that the Americans in that setting are strong favorites. Not that we weren't favorites, but I think everybody has been in our league long enough to know how competitive our league is and how balanced it is. Every team is very, very good. It's not quite like it is in the international competitions with the U.S.
It sounds as if winning silver was also a huge accomplishment for the Czech Republic. Was that the sense you got from Veselá?
I haven't talked with Jana in person since I've been back. I talked with her on a couple of occasions while I was over there. That was huge for them to get that gold-medal game. They were, going into it, probably the sixth- or seventh-strongest team in terms of ranking. To do it in front of their home fans, I could tell, meant a lot to them. You could see how they were celebrating even in defeat, how much it meant to them.
How surprised were you to see Australia and Russia get knocked out in the quarterfinals?
I was shocked. That would never have happened to the United States. That's the difference between the United States and Australia and Russia. I think Australia and Russia could upset the United States, because they've got the talent to do it, but most teams don't have the talent to go 40 minutes and beat the United States. I was surprised from the standpoint that those were two major upsets. I do know from talking to Lauren (Jackson) and Svetlana and Abby (Bishop) that they were crushed after those games. Svetlana really had a great tournament, though.
How nice do you think it will be for Bird and Jackson to get some time off before heading to Russia?
I don't think there's any question that they both are looking forward to it and they're both going to take advantage of it. Lauren's got about 30 days from the time she got home to the time she reports and I know she's going to really get off her feet and get rested up. Sue has a little bit longer stretch and I think that she will take full advantage of it. I look for Sue to spend some time with her family and do those things, but she'll get the needed rest as well.
Do you feel ready to flip the switch and start thinking about 2011?
That's why I went to Europe, really, to start getting ready for 2011 - see who's out there, get a chance to really sit down and talk with Jana and Svetlana.