The Meadors Hire: A Geno Conspiracy?

One of the most joyful/frustrating things about following women's basketball is the tendency of its fanbase to attribute the worst possible motives to every single action that anyone could possibly undertake.

Given the struggles of the game, I can understand why - betting on the worst, cheapest, most petty motive is usually the winning bet. (*) However, when taken to extremes the paranoia and hostility exhibited can be very very frustrating.

Take the case of Dream coach Marynell Meadors. Meadors was given the honor of being named to the coaching staff of the USA Women's Basketball Team, whose head coach is currently Geno Auriemma. Women's BB fans immediately began attempting to fit the hire into their existing world-view. The take: this hire had nothing to do with talent, and was merely the end result of the need for Auriemma to be in absolute control of his surroundings - since Meadors was such a bad coach (so the story goes) she would be a mere cipher on the coaching staff compared to the maniacal brilliance that was Geno.

However, there are many other good reasons for Auriemma to have hired Meadors, none of which have to do with control fantasies. Let's look at some plausible theories:

As honorarium: As I've written before, Meadors is the oldest coach in the WNBA. She's contributed to the sport for decades. Last year, she was named the WNBA's Coach of the Year - I don't think she deserved the vote, but one could argue that she deserved to win on the basis of the team's turnaround from bottom-basement dweller from the previous year to playoff team in 2009.

If Auriemma really doesn't "need" a new coach - so the conspiracy goes - then why not Meadors? Of course, Meadors could be coaching into the 2020s but she might also decide at some point to hang up the clipboard. Maybe USA Basketball decided to add to Meadors's resume as a reward.

Management: You have to remember that Angel McCoughtry is currently on both the Atlanta Dream and the USA Women's Basketball Team. If there's anyone who knows Angel McCoughtry besides the women who have played against her, it's Marynell Meadors. Having Meadors on the team might give Auriemma some extra insight into McCoughtry's noggin. (Or he could just call Jeff Walz.)

Actual coaching: If you don't know Meadors's background, there are two things you should know. First, she has served as an assistant coach before. Meadors's career hasn't gone in a straight line of "first assistant coach, then coach." In her pro career, she's gone back and forth between head coach and assistant coach. Meadors knows what the role of assistant is. A person who had been head coach for the last twenty years might have find sliding into the assistant role more difficult.

Evaluation and building: The Atlanta Dream is not the first team that Meadors has built from the ground up. The other team was the Charlotte Sting, so Meadors knows what its like to build a cohesive team out of...well...nothing.

Furthermore, Meadors seems to have a good eye for evaluating talent. Some might claim that Meadors's acquisitions were either no-brainers (McCoughtry) or from luck (Lyttle, Holdsclaw) but I think that the proof for such claims lies on the one making the claim - choices such as Erika de Souza panned out when no one thought they were, and Shalee Lehning did a fairly decent job of running the point guard spot for a rookie.

In short, I suspect the complaints are more an attempt to insult both Meadors and Auriemma than they are attempts to explain the hire. One thing I know about Auriemma - he loves winning and he is the kind of man who would "run through Hell in a gasoline suit" to win a ball game. (**) If he signed Meadors to his coaching staff, there is only one logical conclusion: he thought she would help guarantee his team a FIBA medal. But of course, even American gold won't sway those that have made up their minds otherwise.



(*) - This is true for other professional sports as well. However, as women's pro basketball is on shakier ground, the creaks in the floorboards make more noise. (**) - Quoted initally by Pete Rose, describing his own love of baseball.

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