Though I have hit some points already in Western Conference Final Grades last month, here are some more details on what I'm thinking about with the black and gold:
1. Hire a head coach who can help accelerate this rebuild.
As of right now, not only is there no CBA, but there's also no head coach, and here are some candidates that the Shock may take a look at regardless of how likely they are to accept an offer.
Former Head Coaches (Pro or College) currently without a job
1. Corey Gaines, former Phoenix Mercury Head Coach - Gaines led the Mercury to three appearances in the Western Finals, and led the 2009 team to a championship. He was also an assistant for the 2006 and 2007 Mercury teams. Overall, his record is 90-101, including the 2012 season, and without it, it is 83-74, but to have that record with Diana Taurasi isn't particularly anything to be ecstatic about. And of course, he was terminated midseason in 2013 because of continued mediocrity.
2. Marynell Meadors, former Atlanta Dream head coach - She was the Atlanta Dream's first head coach and GM, and turned it from a 4 win team in 2008 to a perennial playoff team and conference contender by the time she was terminated midseason in 2012. The Dream won the 2010 and 2011 conference titles with her. But what happened in 2012 between her and McCoughtry? She also was an assistant coach on the 2012 Olympic Team, so did something there lead to her termination?
3. Gail Goestenkors, former Texas head coach - Coach G is best known for being the Duke head coach from 1992-2007 where the Blue Devils became a national power under her watch. But when she was at Texas, Goestenkors hasn't replicated the same success she had on Tobacco Road, and coaching pros is different from college players.
Assistant Coaches on other WNBA Teams
1. Julie Plank, Atlanta Dream - Plank was the head coach of the Washington Mystics from 2009-2010 where she led DC to its first ever consecutive playoff berths in franchise history. But with Fred Williams not remaining the head coach there, she's likely the first candidate for that job.
2. Jenny Boucek, Seattle Storm - Boucek was the former head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-2009 and was terminated in the middle of her final season, possibly because of ownership's financial issues moreso than because of just a bad performance, now that we have the benefit of hindsight. It's beyond me as to why she still hasn't been a head coach again yet, unless she's very patient and wants to replace Brian Agler whenever he leaves or is shown the door. I think she could be a good young coach who can grow with the players.
3. Sandy Brondello, Los Angeles Sparks - Brondello was the head coach of the Silver Stars for one year in 2010, but has been a long time assistant for both the aforementioned Stars and the Sparks since 2011. She too could be a coach who grows with the team.
4. Stephanie White, Indiana Fever - White was an assistant for the Sky (2007-2010) and the Fever (2011-now) and may also be in line for a head coach job soon, and can be that young coach who can grow with the team. That said, with Lin Dunn getting up there in age, and the Fever much closer to the end of the Tamika Catchings era than the beginning, you'd have to think that she's in line to succeed Dunn. Still, I'd interview her and if she impresses me more than the rest, I'd offer her the job, just like anyone else.
Head Coaches with jobs
It's unlikely that the Shock has a realistic chance of getting these coaches who are in secure situations, but the answer's no if they don't ask.
1. Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics - Let me first be on record saying that I want him to stay. But considering how Thibault turned DC around in one season with the same veteran foundation as the 2012 team, he may be able to do the same in Tulsa, and as constructed, the Shock has more promise than the Mystics because of the bumper crop of young assets. But Thibault's very unlikely to leave because he's in owner Ted Leonsis' good graces, and Ted will likely win in a bidding war for his services.
But I'll throw this out there too regarding Thibault as a candidate for other WNBA jobs just to speculate for the heck of it: Phoenix may want to call him to replace Russ Pennell and play the "we're better equipped to win than your current team" card. If the Mercury does, I'd then be very worried. But again, I do NOT want to see Mike Thibault leave DC after one season. The Mystics need him to continue the rebuild that's going on right now.
2. Sherri Coale, University of Oklahoma - She made a major leap from coaching high school to college basketball and has led the Sooners to three Final Fours and an appearance in the championship game since she started there in 1996. Can she do it again? The problem with her is that she hasn't coached in the WNBA, and besides, she'd likely have to take a pay cut to go here. So I'll bet on Coach Coale saying "Thanks but no thanks" to this.
2. Acquire a veteran player who is currently a Top-Three option on her current team, and who can also still be a Top-Three option for the Tulsa Shock.
We don't believe that the Tulsa Shock has a talent deficiency, in particular with younger assets. However, a team can't just be composed solely of younger players. There needs to be some significant veteran leadership there as well.
Currently, the older players on the Shock, like Jennifer Lacy, Nicole Powell, and Candice Wiggins may be providing solid locker room leadership, but if they are on other WNBA teams, in particular a contender, it's safe to say that they won't be top three options on those teams. With veteran players, while there is value in having a locker room leader who doesn't play a cornerstone role, in most cases, there should be someone who is a veteran that is still in her prime and could be a Top Three option on most teams in the league. This is something that the Shock lacks.
Though the Shock needs a veteran piece, the team needs to identify and protect certain core players who can be major pieces for the long term barring a situation like a player who threatens to be a cancer. If I'm Steve Swetoha, I'm going to protect Glory Johnson, Liz Cambage, and Skylar Diggins from being dealt if I can. Johnson earned an All-Star bid in 2013 and was a very strong scoring and rebounding presence; even though she was the 4th pick in the 2012 Draft, she is playing like a Top 3 or Top 2 pick. With Cambage, she has shown signs that she can be a top three center in the league when she reaches her prime and was the #2 pick in the 2011 Draft. With Diggins, the #3 pick in the 2013 Draft, she could be one the better guards in this league as well, and she provides a national face of the league, which is something that the team sorely needs.
Most likely, the Shock will have to acquire a veteran player via trade, so we'll head to this next point.
3. Do not be afraid to deal the 2014 First Round Draft Pick, but only if the "Price is Right."
By missing the playoffs in 2013, the Shock once again is in the Draft Lottery. If Tulsa gets the #1 pick, it is likely that Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford will be the favorite. But this team does have Johnson and Cambage, well, assuming she still wants to be in Tulsa. Either way, it could lead to some positional overload.
Usually when a team is rebuilding, first round draft picks are something that that team must keep. But the Shock has a very young team, and a number of players who could amount to something with the right coaching. And the 2014 rookie class isn't as bally-hooed as the 2013 class was. Therefore, I think that the 2014 first round draft pick could be a valuable asset toward gaining a veteran player who can be a major factor for Tulsa, especially if there is no one prospect that the Shock desperately wants.
Also, with any deal involving a first round pick, that veteran must be in her prime and hopefully toward the beginning of it, not past it. Look at Chicago's trade of its 2012 first round pick for Swin Cash as an example of what not to do, even though Elena Delle Donne came in a year later.
The Tulsa Shock is still rebuilding, but I think this team is closer to being relevant in the Western Conference than not. There are young players here who can be long term pieces here. And the right coach here could help accelerate that process. This team just needs one more major piece who is a veteran to help lead these players, not only in the locker room, but also on the court with major minutes. This isn't me backtracking from my belief that rebuilding teams need to do so with youth. It's just that this team has the young assets, but not enough veteran players who could be major players on other teams in this league.