Press Conference: Q and A with Coach Thibault
Q: What are some strengths and weaknesses of Whitmore?
A” “I would never say a player has any weaknesses if I’m trading for them! Obviously, Tamika has done enough damage against us to make an impression. She was a free agent a few years ago that we had interest in, but at the time we were in the process of re-signing Taj and Asjha and we weren’t in the salary cap situation and the playing situation to get her. We had gotten Margo the year before and we were not at that point. She brings a toughness to us that maybe we lacked some last year. With Taj departing, we did somewhat for the future, which you will see when Sandrine Gruda shows up. Whitmore is a tenacious low post defender. On offense she can post up a mismatch inside and she can step up and shoot outside. Witness the 3’s that she made against us in the playoffs. She has an intimidating personality about her. I think she’s in the prime of her career right now – she’s gotten better each year in the league and she gives us flexibility. Tamika has played both the power forward and the center position and with her we now have a ton of flexibility in our front line. We need her leadership and toughness as well. I think that will carry over onto some of our younger players. She’s got a great basketball IQ, she understands the game. Obviously it leaves some unknowns in other parts of our game, but she gives us a known factor in the front line. I think we have made ourselves into possibly the best front line in the Eastern Conference. It’s going to make for an interesting summer.”
Q: How will the extra draft pick help?
A: “I think it helps us a tremendous amount – it was the make or break part of this trade. We would not have done this trade without the pick being in it. We feel that it’s a good draft, we feel that there are 15-20 players that can come in and help teams immediately and there are players in the second round that will eventually become contributors. Having two first round picks gives us flexibility. There are a lot of options available to us.”
Q: How long was this trade in the works?
A: “It was basically in works since my conversation with KT in December. We had a similar conversation at this time last year and I thought it went away. I thought after the playoff series with Indiana, it might be an obstacle to overcome with her, but she has just had this pull for a couple of years. I don’t ever like to give up a player of that caliber, but when you have a player who has one foot in another city and one foot here, it’s hard to have their total commitment. When she and I had the conversation in December, I said we would try to accommodate her, but only if we got what we wanted. We basically only wanted two things, either this trade or Tamika Catchings, and obviously we weren’t getting Catchings from them.”
Coach Thibault - After Whitmore's Session
“I waited for it to come up, and this is not necessarily a knock on anybody, but you can see the difference as to where some people are or how they are in there career. I want everybody who is here to be totally invested in winning and winning a championship. Basically, you have two people here that are being traded, both who are very talented, but obviously one right now its very important for her to be home and with family and all those things are a priority for her and there is nothing wrong with that. But as you can see with talking to Tamika, one of the reasons we had a high interest in her is that in every conversation you have with her, the word winning comes up in the conversation, the word championship comes up in every conversation. Getting a ring, she said on the call, and that probably was a huge attraction with me in trying to get this deal done. She has a passion about that, it’s what she wants, and I think somewhere that year it got lost in the stretch run of our season of that being the most important thing. Our team will go through a kind of renewal and revival this year and hopefully that kind of attitude will pervade our locker room on a regular basis.”
Q: From an X’s and O’s standpoint, how does this change how you do things?
A: “I don’t know exactly yet until we have every body together. I’m going to go into training camp keeping things pretty simple like a lot of other teams in the conference. We’re all going to be in this, we don’t know when all of our players are going to be here more depending on playoffs and everything else, so we are going to have players getting here late. We certainly will have more opportunities on our team this year to play through the post in a true, back down post fashion. We had it for a little bit with Taj when she was here, Asjha has done it, but she’s seen a lot of double teams. Margo, as you all know, was allergic to the block at times, she liked the high post, but that’s how she grew up learning how to play. Margo provided for us for three years what we needed, but it was in a situation this year that whether she had gotten pregnant or not, she probably wasn’t going to be back on this team and we were looking for a different type of post player. We were going to do that through the draft or free agency, but this trade has allowed us to solve that and now do other things for our team through the draft and free agency. I just think it will give us more of a true post up game, it will allow us to do more switching and changing on defense, which we haven’t been able to do because Margo was on the court.”
Q: Any concerns about the defensive end with the loss of KT?
A: “I think everything is a concern until you see who is going to replace that kind of a person. You give up one thing to get another. The fact of the matter is, all credit is due to KT, she made herself into a great defensive player. She was not considered to be a great defensive player for her first few years in the league. That was certainly not her reputation in college, and through her hard work, reading scouting reports and reading other players, she became one of the best defensive players in the league without being the best athlete or the best quick player. We definitely need whoever replaces her to adopt that attitude. We have some good returning athletes that need to be good students of the game like she was. It will take some time, but I think we can do it athletically instead of if we are mentally smart enough to do it. Katie Douglas is one of the smartest players in this league, especially on the defensive end, because she is a student of the game.”
Q: What do you need/plan on doing going forward?
A: “Well, we have ongoing talks with other teams in the league about possible trades and we have narrowed our draft field down to about 15 players. Obviously, we have two picks in the first round so we are going to get two of those 15. We now need to kind of see which of those players fit into our team with what we have coming back. We need to reinforce to our returning young players that they have an opportunity in front of them if they want to seize it. We’re very intrigued by our young players, but last year we went with experience. Our veteran players saw most of the minutes and our young players had sporadic minutes. If they are going to be impact players in this league, now is the opportunity for them to show us as a coaching staff that it’s their time.”