Pokey Chatman, Corey Gaines and Dan Hughes Discuss Launch of WNBA Season

Opening Statements:

Chicago Sky Head Coach Pokey Chatman: Thoughts on the season, first of all, just excited to be in the league. I'm excited it's year 15 and the league is going strong. Just in terms of Chicago Sky, there are a lot of things that we're playing for. Obviously, five years and no playoff berth, and it's something that we're striving for. Trying to build this team obviously won't be easy, but trying to put in some work and get the players developed and help that process along so we can see some success.

Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines: I think the league's going to be a lot of parody this year. Definitely in the west, the east is always a tough place for people going west to east. But I think the west has a lot of teams this year that can definitely contend.

San Antonio Silver Stars Head Coach Dan Hughes: I just think the league has as good a talent base as I've ever seen. As I look around the league, I look at a lot of good teams. I look at a situation where I think kind of how teams play together will be awfully important for what comes out of it. In our situation, we've got a good training camp. We're a different team, and a lot of teams that I look at as we prepare have the familiarity with each other. We really don't. Well, we do in some key spots, but we have integrated a lot of different personnel. So we're going through a period of playing with each other, but it's been a training camp that we had hoped for with the side aspect of losing Jayne for a couple of weeks. Other than that it's been what we'd hoped we would do.

Question and Answer Session

Q. Dan, you've had a long history with this league. I'm just wondering if you would reflect on the 15th anniversary, and if you could have had any forward looking, could you have seen 15 years into the future to see where this league is now?

DAN HUGHES: That's a great question. I tell you what, I attribute it to my dad. My dad saw the formation of this league, and I'm coaching men at that time. He said this is where you ought to be, Dan. My dad passed away a couple years ago, but God bless him. He's the one that first said to me I ought to get my act into this league. I would have never seen the athletic nature with the skill. When I came into this league I saw a lot of skill, and I saw a lot of really coachable players, but, wow, has the athletic nature improved and us having to deal with the reality of what that does to basketball teams, and it's been a lot of fun for me to watch. Not so much fun for me to have to deal with playing against, but it has been fun to coach. The players have just gotten better and better, and that's not to diminish the players at the beginning, but I think all of us that have been in the league for a long period of time enjoy the product getting better almost on a yearly basis.

Q. I wonder if I could first ask Coach Gaines a question and then Coach Hughes. First, Coach Gaines, can you maybe talk about your post game? (Indiscernible) you added in Candace Dupree last season. People think a lot about Diana and Penny, but how do you feel your postgame will be this season? And for Coach Hughes, maybe the same question on how strong you feel like your interior game is going to be?

COREY GAINES: Well, my postgame's going to change from the previous years and before in the past we've had bigs who can pop and flair out and shoot threes. I think this year the league will take notice that it will be totally different. They'll be doing a lot of diving to the basket. I don't think to many of my bigs will be making threes, but they'll be rebounding and making hard pick and roll cuts and diving to the basket, and seeing great screens and picks for Diana and Penny.

DAN HUGHES: In our situation, I think that's a great question, Michelle. I think this team on the whole that I'm coaching is a much more athletic and quick team, but it's not necessarily a bigger team from a post standpoint. I think what some of the new players bring to Ruth Riley to Sophia Young will have a lot to do with how this plays out. I do think we are a much quicker basketball team on the perimeter, and we're going to need some of the infusion of energy to help our rebounding efforts. I think that's a legitimate question and probably the biggest question about my team.

Q. If I could follow up with that, Coach Hughes, what is Chamique's status? Is she still rehabbing? Is there any chance we'd see her in a Silver Stars uniform at any time this season?

DAN HUGHES: She's a free agent. To answer that question appropriately, you could see her in any uniform. We don't own any rights to her, she is an unrestricted free agent. I know I get the impression she's working at it and wants to play, but there is no contractual situation that I'm aware of with her or anybody at this point.

Q. Is it conceivable? Is she somebody you would be interested in or is that not something you can address? If she was to come back, I know her injury was in August, and sometimes it takes a year for rehab. But if she was healthy, is she somebody you could possibly see at some point playing for you again?

DAN HUGHES: I can only tell you the players I'm seeing right now, and we have not signed her so that's the best way I would answer that for you. I cannot, in any way, infer that she will play for us.

Q. Coach Chatman, welcome to the league. What do you think your biggest adjustment will be when you play this year?

POKEY CHATMAN: Can you repeat the question, please?

Q. What do you think your biggest adjustment is going to be getting used to this league?

POKEY CHATMAN: Well, the adjustment, you're talking to two of them on the phone. I think the level of coaching and then you go back to the level of play. Coach Hughes mentioned it. Over the years, not just the skill set but the athletic ability, I think the league overall, the talent, the coaches, scouting, players improving at their game I think that would be huge for anyone. I think what helped a little bit for me was going abroad, and the pace of the game and adjustments and getting my feet wet. But I'm a rookie coach, so I think I'm going to learn some of that on the fly as well.

Q. Coach Hughes and Coach Gaines, a lot of teams have made a lot of moves, your teams included, but who do you see has made the most moves and what are the teams to watch? Is Seattle the team defending their title?

COREY GAINES: I think the champions are champions, so Seattle will definitely be up there. You've got to dethrone a champion or knock them off, so of course they'll be in the running. And I think also Minnesota as far as talent wise, they're stacked over there. They have a lot of talent, young talent coming in, old talent. They have a great coach. I think they've played under her for a year, and another year under her belt, they'll learn her system. I think they know it now, and they've made some draft choices and some different type of moves that will help them. So definitely I think Minnesota will be up there.

DAN HUGHES: I agree with what Corey said. I think you have to start with Seattle, because not only did they win the championship, but the way they won the championship and their run through the west a year ago. I think you start with them. I would echo Minnesota. That is an accumulation, and Coach Reeve was my assistant, and I know she'll do some wonderful things. That is a real accumulation of a lot of very good lottery picks and a lot of good basketball players. I also think if you look at Phoenix's history over the last every other year type situation, they're on the right track there as well. So out west nothing is going to be easy for any of us in those situations. But I think those three jump out, and I think Tulsa has improved, and I think L.A.'s got Candace Parker back so that's going to make a huge difference. So the west will be challenging day in and day out.

Q. Coach Gaines, I know at one point Diana was considering taking the 2011 season off, and then later the fiasco in Turkey happened. Can you talk about how she's doing now and how she looked in training camp?

COREY GAINES: First of all, the fiasco in Turkey, I played in Turkey, and I know Europe is a different beast as we used to say when I played over there. It was a mix up or a mistake, whatever you want to call it, and it got fixed. At first it was a problem. It was all over the news here in the States, but I'm glad it got corrected. Her training camp we started her off slow because she was off a couple months because she wasn't playing in Europe. So she came out, and made sure we didn't want to do too much too fast. But she's looking good. I will say this much, she's rested. For my team the way we play, it's important for my players to be rested. In the past when we've had a training camp and the players have had a month to come in and get some time off from Europe, it's helped my style that I learned how to coach through Paul Westhead, and I think this year's the same thing. We had a training camp going and the players came in rested. So that is the most important thing for my style that the players come in rested not only physically but mentally, because it's a grind playing in Europe. Most of my players come off championship teams in Europe, so they're playing to the end. Then when they come maybe a couple of days rest or maybe a day rest and start the WNBA, it's kind of tough on them. But I think those years we won championships, it's really helped to have a training camp because our style of play is a little different than most teams, and it really takes a different type of mindset to get ready for that. You can't just say you're going to do it; you have to really work on it, and do what we do.

Q. When she was considering taking the season off, what was your reaction and what did you say to her?

COREY GAINES: Truthfully, I didn't say a thing. I said Diana I think you should do what is best for you. Because I feel she's won those two championships, and physically it's hard on her and mentally also. I think the mental part of the game was she's going hard every second on the court in Europe, in the WNBA, with no rest. I always say to myself I don't think I could have done that when I played. I remember going to summer league after the NBA season and that was hard, and that's summer league. That's not a whole full season. So I think the women really need to get credit for what they do. When men go to the Olympics, you always hear them complain about how they need to rest, they need to rest. How about doing it for six years in a row? That is a whole different story. So when she said she needed the rest, hey, I think in the long run it would have been better for us because mentally she would have been prepared and physically because it's taxing on their bodies. The way they play, and Europe is a more physical game, and then she comes back over here and plays and this is hard. When she says she may sit out, I said, if you need it, that's what you do.

Q. Last follow up, what do you think changed her mind?

COREY GAINES: You know what, sometimes incidents that happen in your life or mistakes or whatever you want to call it, I think that might have helped her. She might have gotten some rest on the mishaps over in Turkey, and that helped her clear her mind and maybe get a new desire to come and play because she missed basketball. She had never been away from basketball her whole life. I think a couple of months gives you a new desire and a new motivation. I'm happy. She's really ready to play.

Q. Coach Chatman, what is the status right now with Epiphanny Prince in Russia, and how is the health of Shameka Christon this year?

POKEY CHATMAN: I'll start with Epiphanny Prince. We're still waiting for when Epiphanny will have to depart from us, and I planned for it the minute she started playing well in Russia and Europe and became a focal point of what they wanted to do with respect to her contract and the agreement that she had that was prior to Chicago. So that status is day to day. They're still playing in tournaments and they're preparing for the day to day situation. Everyone will know, in terms of Shameka Christon, she underwent surgery this morning, and sustained some cartilage damage in training camp about five or six days ago. MRI showed it really clear. She went in and had surgery, and she'll be out a minimum of eight weeks. So not the way you want to start it off, but it's sports. It happens. The biggest thing is the game's about adjustments. We'll just have to make adjustments before the games begin, and that's what we have to do.

Q. Coach Gaines, neither Diana nor Penny played in the preseason game against L.A. were you holding them out for strategic reasons, physical rest reasons? What is their physical condition and are they ready to go?

COREY GAINES: They're ready to go. I'm not that smart as a coach to hold them out. I'm not that type of person or coaching style of trickery and not to show what I'm doing. What I do is simple: Rebound, get the ball, and go. So I'm not trying to fool anybody. I think they needed some rest. They didn't play like some of the other players that came back from Europe that had gotten a month off. They had been off for two or three months. So I didn't want to get them too sore or get them going too many times. I wanted to get them back into the flow with a little ease, as I call it, to our cycles. So I think that was a day where I could see from some of my younger players, how they played and how the team played without those two stars on the court. There was no other reason than just give them a little rest, that's all.

Q. How important do you think the new media is to the league in the way it's making it popular? I have actually seen pictures taken in the arena get posted on Facebook before the announcers have much time to discuss what happened.

DAN HUGHES: I'm easily the oldest here. With Tweeting and Facebook, I'm trying to understand it, but I think Pokey and Corey can do a way better job at relating this situation than I can. I'm trying but it's not been part of my life.

COREY GAINES: No, Dan, I'm just as lost as you are. I don't tweet, and I don't have a Facebook either. That is out of my realm. I think I missed that boat.

POKEY CHATMAN: I think from the standpoint of I'm not as young as I used to be, but I've been trying to get the message out there. Obviously with the social media thing, there are however many million, or I don't even know how many, I haven't seen the movie yet. But obviously it's a vehicle that businesses have taken it upon themselves to get the word out. So I think from that standpoint if it's controlled from teams and organizations it's just another media to get it out. We've also seen the flip side of it. I worry about players that don't understand the ramifications of certain things, and don't quite understand that once it's out there, it's out there. But I think if it's controlled and the media people are putting images out there and messages, why not? It's basically an inexpensive way to get exposure for a league that we're trying to get exposure in many different ways, so I think from that standpoint, it's positive.

DAN HUGHES: To be serious, Pokey's point is really well taken. I think it's like a lot of things, if it's used properly, it could be a vehicle for progress, but it's also something that could be destructive to you. It just needs to be used, I think, in a positive way. That includes not just teams, but players and all of us involved.


Q. Coach Hughes, I was wondering what players have stood out in your training camp so far this year?

DAN HUGHES: We had several additions. If you look at I think Jia Perkins coming in as a veteran has been she has stood out to me as to kind of bringing the type of energy we kind of wanted on our perimeter game a little bit. The rookie class stands out pretty good. Danielle Robinson and Porsha Phillips especially, Porsha has been a bit of a surprise for us. I mean, we had good hopes, but she's played very strongly here in camp as well. Tully Bevilaqua just brings, I don't care what team, Seattle, Indiana or now San Antonio, she just brings a level of toughness and spirit that I am glad I am playing with it rather than against it.

Q. Coming up on the deadline to make cuts, what kind of qualities are you looking for in players to keep on this team as you move forward?

DAN HUGHES: I think because of the talent level that I'm looking at that we're playing, we better have a certain energy, that you had that we can play to as a team. I just feel that's going to be very important coming out of it. So we need talents that blend well with each other, and we rarely focus defensively as a unit, and we need to have a personality that is, I think, consistent at areas. That's really where we've been these two weeks.

Q. Coach, when you look at the Storm this year versus last year from what you've seen so far and you're about to go play them, what do you think bodes well for you? What do you think will be the advantage this year of closing the gap between you and the Storm?

DAN HUGHES: I think Seattle has a very similar basketball team, plus they've added Katie Smith. And that is a pretty significant quality to add to an already championship caliber team. Each year has its uniqueness. That is the only thing I've learned in so many years. Every year's going to have its uniqueness. But on paper Seattle is every bit as good as the team, and you might even argue, might even be a little better. It's our challenge, the rest of us, to raise our bar, because I don't think they're going to get worse.