Greg Williams took over the head coaching duties for the Detroit Shock in 2001.
Outside of Wendy Palmer, the roster he inherited was lacking in star power. Long gone were the likes of Korie Hlede and Jennifer Azzi whom fans had drawn attached to. However there were some interesting pieces still left on the board especially on the offensive side of the ball: Elena Tornikidou was coming off a season in which she connected on 50.6 percent of her field goal attempts (eighth best in the league) and 91.4 percent of her free throw attempts (second in the league); Astou Ndiaye-Diatta made 47.4 percent of her shots; and Barbara Farris (50.0%), Oksana Zakauluzhnaya (52.1%) and Joy Holmes (47.1%) all posted above average field goal percentages off the bench.
Williams began adding to that mix in the 2001 WNBA Draft, where the Shock picked up one of the first major components of its championship puzzle of 2003 in the form of Georgia guard Deanna Nolan.
�Deanna Nolan may be the most athletic player in the entire draft,� Said Williams moments after the draft. �She has exceptional quickness, enabling her to excel on the defensive end.�
The team also added Jae Kingi in the second round (No. 22 overall), Svetlana Volnaya in the third (No. 38) and Kelly Santos in the fourth (No. 54). Two weeks later, the Shock announced that Carl Boyd (Porter) and Rachel Sporn would return to the team after taking the 2000 season off to train for the Olympic Games.
As to what changes Shock fans might be able to look forward to under a new coaching regime, Williams said that fans would notice �subtle differences� but �there aren�t going to be major changes. I had a lot of input on what we were doing here before. Hopefully, the big difference you�ll see is that we�re better defensively. And that�s something that was going to have to be a point of emphasis whether Nancy had been here or not.�
Things didn�t look too bad for the Shock following the season opener on June 2 despite a 74-73 loss. The opponent, after all, was the four-time WNBA Champion Houston Comets. Admittedly, Houston was without Cynthia Cooper (retirement) and Sheryl Swoopes (ACL Injury), but considering the Shock had never beaten the Comets in five prior meetings, a one-point defeat was not exactly cause for alarm.
A 92-71 loss to Orlando three days later, and a 21-point loss to those same Comets on June 7, however, set the bells to ringing. Despite following up those losses with three straight wins, things went from so-so to worse when Wendy Palmer injured her left hamstring keeping her out of the lineup for the next 10 games.
Detroit lost five games in a row following Palmer�s injury, however they still found themselves in a tie with Indiana for the fourth playoff spot as much of the East struggled during the first half of the season.
|2001 Eastern Conference Standings|
|Through June 29|
Cleveland, Miami and New York ran away with the top three spots in the East early with Detroit, Orlando, Indiana, Washington and Charlotte left to battle it out for the four seed. The team that got hot in over the last two-thirds of the season would get the nod.
Unfortunately, after a 2-8 record with Palmer out of the Detroit line-up, her return didn�t help change the team�s fortunes. They lost their first four games upon her return and seven of their next eight. In the meantime, the Charlotte Sting had embarked on a remarkable run that saw them take control of the fourth playoff spot. Detroit never put together a two-game winning streak after the sixth game of the season.
All that was left for the Shock at that point was the development of its young talent. Although Nolan (21) was the only player who would ultimately become an All-Star, Edwina Brown (23), Barbara Farris (24), Dominique Canty (24) and Jae Kingi (25) all appeared to have plenty to offer future Shock teams.
Detroit finished the year at 10-22 as did three other clubs � Seattle, Indiana and Washington � which meant that another potential star would be joining the team in 2002 in the form of the second overall pick in the draft.
Following the team�s season-ending win over the Cleveland Rockers, Williams reflected on the year: �I think our training camp deceived us. It was a competitive camp, but once we got in the exhibition season, we knew we had some gaps to fill.�
Palmer, for one, was already looking towards 2002: �We�d like to thank the fans for their support. We have the best fans and we are thankful for that. We look forward to coming out here next summer and turning things around.�