I asked Patrick four questions in regards to the Mystics and their offseason. Here are this thoughts on those topics.
Swish Appeal: One of the possible reasons why the Washington Mystics have never been a successful franchise on the basketball court over most of its 15 year history is because they never had an A-list star player for league terms except for Chamique Holdsclaw, and even she did not pan out for them over the long term. Do you think that the Mystics need such a player in order to improve their relevance in the WNBA?
Patrick Sheehy: Washington fans have suffered a long, long, painful torture of bad luck, missed opportunities and poor management. Every time the team has had a positive trend whether it be a star like Holdsclaw or [Alana] Beard or just a gutsy, hardworking team that beats expectations [like the 2010 Mystics team], something unexpected and unfair has happened.
I was a Boston Red Sox fan growing up, and I know what it feels like. Just like that franchise turned itself around and became a multiple champion, the Mystics can do the same…hopefully you don’t have to wait as long as Boston fans did.
A marquee player can bring a few people into a game as a novelty…but in the end you have to win and win consistently. Winning heals everything in sports. I think you have a fantastic coach in Mike Thibault, someone I, as a youth coach myself, admire greatly. I think there are some good pieces in Washington [as constructed] like Monique Currie and Crystal Langhorne, and some good role players in Iziane Castro Marques, Michelle Snow and Matee Ajavon, but they do need a star, whether she is a marquee name or not matters less to me than that they find a dynamic leader to build around.
SA: As a Storm fan, you have experienced seeing the team owned by NBA team owners like the late Barry Ackerley, Howard Schultz, and Clay Bennett. You now see this team owned by Force 10 Hoops which is one of the smaller ownership groups in the WNBA. What advantages and disadvantages do you see with large ownership groups like the Mystics' and Liberty's ownership groups and smaller ones like the Storm’s when it comes to running WNBA teams?
PS: It all depends on the individuals responsible. Ginger Ackerley was the driving force behind the Storm, Schultz loved the winning and shared big with the fans when his team won big…Bennett was the owner for a short period of time and the only impact he had was in choosing to sell the team to Force 10 Hoops.
I think having the brand, infrastructure and financial backing of an NBA franchise is a huge boon to a new franchise. I am a believer that this was a brilliant decision by David Stern and Val Ackerman. I think this foundation significantly helped teams like New York, LA, Washington, Indiana, Seattle and San Antonio survive. If the league had started with 100% independent ownership, I fear that it would have folded at that first contraction.
On the other hand, I am sure it is much harder to run a successful franchise under an independent owner, but as a fan it is the best possible situation. I know Force 10 Hoops is a unique group of simply amazing women…I have been fortunate enough to meet and chat with a few of them. They are just like the fans of this team that hooked me on the WNBA in the first place. They are genuine, honest, passionate and brilliant people. I cannot possibly articulate how fortunate the Seattle basketball community is for having these women and Team President/CEO Karen Bryant involved with this franchise. Having independent ownership that is so representative of the personality and culture of our city, our team and our fans just deepens the connection between the team and the community.
I think that NBA owners that have remained committed to their WNBA teams have had great success as well. The Phoenix Mercury’s Robert Sarver, the Indiana Fever’s Herb Simon and the Minnesota Lynx’s Glen Taylor are great examples of such owners. I believe that it is not just about the type of ownership, it is really about the quality of ownership.
SA: What are your thoughts on former Connecticut Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault being hired as the new General Manager and Head Coach of the Mystics? Also, how do you feel about former Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan taking his spot in Connecticut?
PS: I am happy for the teams their fans and the coaches themselves. These are two of the greatest coaches in the women’s game. I think Mystics’ fans are in for a real treat…Coach Thibault can build a team and is one of the best coaches in the business when it comes to game time. He can do a lot with a little and he can do even more if you give him a star. Even his least talented teams have always been competitive.
I think Anne Donovan is a great teacher for young talent, can do wonders for Tina Charles as a post coach and is one of the best prepared coaches going in to tip off. Her team’s work hard, they know the game plan and they execute well.
SA: One of the major issues that need to be resolved in the Mystics’ current offseason is whether their best player, Crystal Langhorne should remain with the team for the 2013 season and beyond. Do you think that the Mystics should keep her because she will provide a veteran post presence for them, or should they trade her for other assets that have the potential to help them more in the future?
PS: I like Crystal, but I am not sure she is so much the star you build around as a key complementary piece. She would be a great Scottie Pippen to a Michael Jordan or a Tina Thompson to a Cynthia Cooper/Sheryl Swoopes. If you aren’t getting Cynthia, Sheryl or Michael…hold on to her if she wants to stay but if you can get a young Cooper, Swoopes or Jordan….all bets are off.
To view part 1 of our Q&A with Patrick, click here.