It's safe to say that a good number of WNBA fans believe that Trudi Lacey, the General Manager and Head Coach of the Washington Mystics will be terminated in the not too distant future. At the same time, I'm not holding my breath, because I've been so disappointed with the organization as of late.
Assuming that the team decides to make a change, whether it is to set out a clear plan for the future, to increase season ticket holder renewal rates, or maybe a bit of both, who are some candidates that may be on the short list? Here are some ideas.
Before We Get To Possible Candidates
In the 2010 WNBA season, the Mystics had a separate person at the General Manager and Head Coach positions. After that, they combined both roles together. Assuming Lacey is terminated, some assume that the next person would be hired as GM and HC, partly because of the mentality that once a team goes GM/HC, it stays that way. I disagree.
A head coach looks to directly build chemistry between players and develops players' potential, in particular for younger players. A general manager negotiates player contracts, trades, free agent signings, and oversees scouting of possible future players who could be drafted or signed as free agents. These roles are related but not mutually exclusive of one another. But at the end of the day, they are still pretty different responsibilities, and to me, it's most important that the Mystics go after a General Manager first, and then let the general manager decide what happens with coaching from there, whether the GM wants to coach the team directly, or hire another person to handle that task.
So here are five possible candidates for the GM spot. They are not in order of preference.
GM Candidate 1: Marynell Meadors, former Dream GM and Head Coach
Pros: She was the GM and Head Coach of the Dream from its inaugural season in 2008 until this season, where she helped turn around a team that was 4-30 in 2008 to 18-16 the next year. Since then, ATL has improved on its regular season record to 19 wins in 2010 and 20 in 2011, not to mention two straight Eastern Conference championships in the last two years. This is despite the fact that the Dream was a lower seed in the playoffs both of those seasons.
It seems that she is an unofficial favorite for this job, and many Mystics fans do want her to take both positions. She was an assistant from 2005-2007 for the Mystics so she is familiar with the city and the Verizon Center if nothing else.
Cons: Forgive me for showing age discrimination here, but Meadors is nearly 70 years old and how much longer does she want to stay in the WNBA in the front office? Even if she became Mystics GM, I don't really know if she is a long term solution (at least four years) in that role. It is also possible that she may just name herself head coach without considering others, maybe to get back at Atlanta.
And a large amount of the Dream's success came because the team got the #1 pick in 2009 in Angel McCoughtry. What would have happened if Angel went to the Mystics and the Dream ended up with Kristi Toliver, Marissa Coleman, or maybe DeWanna Bonner?
GM Candidate 2: Jennifer Gillom, current Mystics Assistant Coach
Pros: She is a well respected former player and has cred throughout the WNBA. As a coach she has been the motivator type. Gillom was also on Geno Auriemma's staff for the 2012 Team USA basketball team, which is all made up of well respected coaches, including the aforementioned Meadors.
Cons: She has no previous GM experience, because the Sparks and Lynx (the teams she previously was at as head coach), had separate bodies in the GM position. The head coach has to manage personalities well, but the GM doesn't have to be that person at all if he or she is in a separate body from the head coach. After all, the GM makes hiring and firing decisions, and at times the GM has to be the bad guy in pro sports. It seems that Gillom is the "good guy" coach, and how can she handle the "bad guy" GM responsibilities? That is the most important part right now. Gillom as a GM can't be such a motivator anymore, in particular if she hired someone else to be head coach, but I find it unlikely with her.
Just so you know, when I think of the "bad guy" GM, there was a scene on NBA TV's "The Association" a couple seasons ago with the Boston Celtics, where the coaches and players seemed to be at odds with GM Danny Ainge, in particular right after the Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green trade.
As a coach, I would consider her if I was GM actually, because you can argue that injuries to Seimone Augustus and Candace Parker contributed to her demise in her previous coaching stints. But as I said before, GM'ing is a different enchilada, and being a diplomat with players isn't something that's necessary. Often, the GM should be a bit detached from the players, a thing that GM/HC's don't have.
GM Candidate 3: Marianne Stanley, current Mystics Assistant Coach
Pros: Stanley is one of the most respected coaches in all of women's basketball, mostly at the college level, where she coached Nancy Lieberman and Anne Donovan at Old Dominion and Lisa Leslie at USC, and even helped coach the Stanford women's team when Coach Vanderveer took a sabbatical to coach the 1996 Team USA basketball team. Any coach with three national championships (two AIAW and one NCAA) certainly deserves a lot of respect.
On top of that Stanley was the Mystics head coach back in the day as well, leading DC to its first ever appearance in the Eastern Finals 10 years ago.
Cons: Stanley hasn't been a WNBA head coach for a number of years. In addition, she was part of the coaching staff in both years of the Lacey era, and she cannot be held completely blameless either. I've heard from other STH's that Stanley doesn't feel interested in being the top basketball figure (head coach or GM), so if this is true, she probably won't want this job even if she was offered it, so I don't think she is a potential long term solution at this position.
GM Candidate 4: Bill Laimbeer, former GM and Head Coach of the Detroit (now Tulsa) Shock
Pros: Laimbeer is one of the best WNBA head coaches in league history. I have noticed that he has gotten his players to play a physical style of basketball, which is how Laimbeer played himself in his days. It may not be pretty ball, but it is a style of basketball that works.
Cons: The problem with Laimbeer isn't whether he can get WNBA players to buy into his system. He left Detroit in 2009 specifically to look for a head coaching job in the NBA but failed to do so, and had to settle as an assistant for the Wolves. He has been considered for the Pistons' job too in recent years, but even they passed him up for other coaches with NBA coaching experience. I don't know if the NBA really devalues WNBA experience that much, or if it is because Laimbeer was such a bad boy during his playing years that his contemporaries, many of whom are now NBA front office members, just don't want him around as a coach... Maybe it's both.
Even if he became Mystics GM and selected himself to be the head coach, I find it likely that he will bolt for an NBA head coaching gig if he can manage to get the Mystics a WNBA championship, a Finals appearance, or really, whenever any NBA team wants him. If he decides not to be the head coach as GM, I would think there's a very good chance that Rick Mahorn, also a member of the Bullets/Wizards Alumni Association, will be the coach. To be fair, I don't think that Mahorn being the Mystics head coach is a bad thing. However, given "Malice in the Palace" part two, and with his incident with Lisa Leslie, that could be a turn off for some fans and maybe some players.
GM Candidate 5: Angela Taylor, former GM of the Washington Mystics
Pros: In short, Taylor helped construct a remarkable rebuild for the Washington Mystics in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The 2010 team was the only team to get above 20 wins in a season for franchise history. Taylor is a well respected figure within the WNBA's front offices and players, though many, including me, didn't really know her too well when she was hired.
She was able to make some important deals that helped make the 2010 season possible, which include the trade for Lindsey Harding prior to the 2009 season, and the signing of Katie Smith before the 2010 season, who played as "glue guy" that year. Lastly, she pulled a rabbit out of the hat by hiring Julie Plank as the Mystics' head coach. Previously, she was a well respected assistant among WNBA front offices and players, but not as well known among general fans. Could Taylor either get Plank back as head coach, or perhaps could she find another well respected assistant who can make some Mystic Magic?
The hope of a Billy Martin scenario is in store with this one.
Cons: Why would Taylor want to come back to be hired by the ownership that showed her the door after 2010? That is the easy question. The second issue for Taylor is about her drafting. In 2009, she took Marissa Coleman with the 2nd pick, but some better players down the board, including Kristi Toliver and DeWanna Bonner were available. Maybe Toliver wasn't necessary because the Mystics had Harding at the other starting guard spot with Alana Beard, but Bonner could have been a matchup nightmare. Even then, could drafting an extra point guard like the aforementioned Toliver, Renee Montgomery or Briann January have hurt the Mystics? In 2010, they drafted Jacinta Monroe, but she is now no longer in the league. Maybe things could've been different if Taylor were still here? So Taylor knew how to make trades and was able to get a very notable free agent to come here who may otherwise have gone to Seattle a year earlier from hindsight. But her drafting wasn't the best...
Lastly, unlike the previous four candidates, Taylor doesn't have WNBA coaching experience at all (she was a college assistant in the past), assuming ownership hopes that the GM names him or herself head coach too. If Taylor were coming back, it is almost inevitable that she will hire someone else to be the head coach which costs ownership more salary, 401K contributions, and health insurance.
So those are five candidates I can think of as a potential General Manager for the Mystics. Everyone has pros and cons, and probably for almost all of them I wrote more about cons than pros and it kind of was by design to avoid being too zeroed in on anyone.
Just want to see what you all think of these candidates as a possible GM for the future in the nation's capital.
If you have another candidate for General Manager, feel free to put him or her in the comments.