Leah Secondo Diary
Before I get to the nuts and bolts, let me bring you up to speed on the off-season journeys. I handled play-by-play for the Southeastern Conference Television broadcasts and I also did the color commentary for the America East Conference TV games. It came out to about 25 games. I also worked at the local ABC affiliate in Sarasota, Fla. High school football is huge in Florida, so the majority of the time I was covering games on Friday night. When I wasn’t doing TV work, I was selling real estate, catching up on yard work and house chores or most important just hanging with my dog, Bailey. The other big off-season news is I bought a motorcycle. I have not taken it out on the man drag in town yet. I know my limits.
Travel Day to Connecticut: May 21, 2004:
It is always great to come home. There is a special bond being associated with a team. It is one that you can’t compare to any other experience in life. The Connecticut Sun is like an extended family to me. I am very excited to see everyone and especially meet the rookies.
I caught the end of practice at Connecticut College. There is anxious mood to the day. Yet a bit of reservation since the team really has not played together for more than a week. Fans are going to have to be patient as the six new players find their place with the team and each player learns the others positive attributes.
First-round selection Lindsay Whalen has a girl-next-door personality. She always says hello when she walks by and has a swagger to her walk. Call it a confident or cocky walk, but I like it. Swagger is good.
Debbie Black is excited about the start and while having the responsibility of teaching Whalen the WNBA ropes. It amazes me how she is still going at the pace she is at 37 years old.
May 22 Game Day against Phoenix:
No shoot-around due to the 4 p.m. national television start. A sold out crowd comes early to get a glimpse of Diana in a pro uniform. They cheered her when she came out on the floor for warm-ups…cheered when she made a hoop…pretty much cheered anytime she touched the ball. The Sun followed the game plan early keeping Big T quiet. I don’t believe she scored until inside 10 minutes to go in the first half. Then, it all went downhill. Somehow, some way the Sun lost their focus. It was disheartening to watch a group of players who had made such a vow to change the thoughts from a year ago, go right back to square one before a national television audience. To top it off, missing 17 layups and falling behind by 17 points in the second half forced drastic measures. Coach T put all five rookies on the floor, and wouldn’t you know they followed the game plan the best. Suddenly, the game was in single digits. But at that point, time was not on their side, and the Sun lost the opener 65-58. The loss overshadows Wendy Palmer’s first double-double since 2001, when she played with Detroit.
May 23 Practice at the Arena:
3-5 p.m. A long team meeting ended with everyone on the floor by 3:30 p.m. The crux of the practice? Coach can stomach a loss when he knows the team has left it ALL on the floor. “There are 12 darn good players who can play. You are all good, just give me your all when you play and that is all we can ask.”
May 24 Practice at the Arena:
11 am to 1 pm. A big scare at practice. Katie Douglas twisted her ankle on the heavy paint in the paint. She’s okay, and we are all trying to figure out where her phantom defender came from and went to. Le’Coe Willingham is working her butt off. Literally! After practice, she stayed and worked out with Strength Coach Lisa Ciaravella (like she had a choice). They were doing sprints, working with a weighted ball. I swear I thought she was going to get sick. Keep working Le’Coe. If there is anyone who can get you into shape, it’s Lisa.
May 25 Game Houston:
Shoot around 10-11 am. A solid run through. The players looked relaxed but focused on the task. Houston is off to its worst start at 1-2 in franchise history. The Sun need this win for a moral boast. However, they run into the Tina Thompson-Sheryl Swoopes road show. The Olympic duo accounted for 50% of the Comets’ points (17 pts each). After Coach Van Chancellor got into Swoopes’ face about her defense against Katie Douglas (to that point, Douglas had knocked down a career-high six three-pointers) the Sun did not have another answer offensively. Houston walks off the court with a 68-57 win. Douglas scores 21 in the losing effort and ties Wendy Palmer with a game-high eight rebounds.
The complete rhythm of the team just isn’t there. YET. Give it time. Remember, the core of the team has only played for about a week together.
May 27 Game LA:
Shoot around 10-11 am. Practice ends with Lindsay Whalen, Jess Brungo, Le’Coe Willingham and Keesh making half-court shots. This has never happened since the team moved to CT.
Rebecca Lobo Bobblehead Night! The crowd celebrates the career of their adopted athlete. The evening events for Rebecca were well put together with comments from previous coaches playing on the big screens, and special halftime segment that included a video montage, words from Sun General Manager Chris Sienko, and WNBA President Val Ackerman. If you didn’t go to the game, you missed a well-deserved and very nicely done tribute.
There is no better team in the WNBA to work on your confidence against than Lisa Leslie and the L.A. Sparks, a veteran group that, barring injury, is going to be tough to dethrone as Western Conference Champions. The Sun split with L.A. in 2003. The game that they won was downplayed by some of the media out there because Leslie did not play. Well, Lisa played tonight, and the Sun defense did an outstanding job communicating and rotating off their defender. Lisa was never a consistent factor in the game and finished with 12 points. Kudos to Wendy Palmer, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Asjha Jones for tying up their bigs (Leslie, Milton-Jones, Whitmore, Thomas). The Sun got All-Star MVP guard Nikki Teasley into foul trouble late in the first half. Katie Douglas backed her previous game effort with a season-high 25 points, and career-high seven assists. Nykesha Sales looked like her old self. Sales’ three-pointer with 1:40 remaining iced the win. Keesh finished with 19. Taj nearly had a double-double (14 points, nine rebounds). In addition, Lindsay Whalen broke out with 10 points and seven assists. Coach T kept yelling, “Let’s go,” motioning to push the ball up the floor. The Sun loved the pace and ran off an 82-73 win.