I know we've been very harsh on Coach Lacey last season, and even now, as well as nearly every Mystics fan, WNBA fan, and league wide source. Let's face it. She got 11 wins in two seasons, and her name will always be tied with the worst two year stretch in franchise history to date. Also, none of her draft picks are on the 2013 team. So I get that just seeing this question just wants to make some people dismiss any possibility that she deserves credit for anything this season. But there is one major reason why you can argue that she does.
Lacey signed all four of the 2012 Mystics players who remain on the 2013 team.
Trudi Lacey laid the foundation for the 2013 Washington Mystics team, and perhaps (and maybe even likely) for the foreseeable future. She re-signed Crystal Langhorne, Monique Currie, and Matee Ajavon in the 2011-2012 offseason. In addition, Lacey was able to get Michelle Snow to sign a deal in free agency for the 2011-2012 offseason.
While I do blame all four for leading the Mystics to the 5-29 disaster that was the 2012 season in addition to Lacey, I also give them major credit for turning it around in the 2013 season. Sure, Lacey's successor, Mike Thibault deserves major credit for motivating this team to turn things around. I get that. He's earned my vote for the 2013 Coach of the Year. But Langhorne, Currie, Ajavon, and Snow have shown that they can play much better together than most people thought before the season.
Let's say that this group does make the Eastern Conference Finals, or even the Finals this season. If they do, I'm sure that they are the ones who will be major pieces for that type of a playoff run. And it will give some vindication to Trudi Lacey, that some of her decisions have panned out.
Why Lacey still may not deserve credit for the 2013 Mystics team's progress.
Now I'll just hit the opposite side of the argument that Lacey deserves close to, if not zero credit for the 2013 Mystics season. The main reason would be this.
In regards to Langhorne's, Currie's, and Ajavon's re-signings, it's quite possible that Lacey may have had to give them higher salaries than what other teams were willing to pay them in free agency, whether restricted or unrestricted though we don't know exact numbers. That results in Langhorne's, Curries, and Ajavon's contracts being "overpriced" as compared with market demand with other WNBA teams, and therefore other franchises wouldn't want to trade for them because they are "overpaid" though obviously in reality, I don't think any WNBA player is overpaid. It's just that their cap hits are too big within the confines of the league.
The second reason why Lacey may not deserve credit is because these may have been "no-brainer" signings at the time. The Mystics in the 2011-2012 offseason just came off a 6 win season. It's not like a top unrestricted free agent was dying to play in DC. And if the Mystics wanted any hope of being a competitive team in 2012, they had to re-sign those three and then did. In regards to Snow, some fans may say that she signed here in order to get a bigger role than she would on other teams, and at least at the time, many Mystics fans thought that the only free agents who would come here were those that just wanted any shot in the WNBA or bench players who wanted an opportunity to start. From hindsight, it does appear that that was the case.
Lastly, while the Mystics did keep their top players in the 2012 team into 2013, they did add major pieces who are contributing to this team, including Kia Vaughn, and Ivory Latta. Latta in particular has been the team's biggest spark plug and arguably is the number one reason why DC isn't sixth in the East this season with Mike Thibault. I personally believe that she is.
While I certainly believe that Trudi Lacey's coaching, her drafting, and her trading of younger assets for veteran pieces were all bad, I can't totally dismiss her as being a contributor for this team in the Mike Thibault era thus far. Therefore I believe that she does deserve some credit for giving Mike Thibault something he can work with for the 2013 season. If Coach Thibault didn't believe that Langhorne, Currie, Ajavon, and/or Snow were players who he believed that he could work with, I believe that they would have been moved by now if he could help it.
Lacey did sign four players who are in the rotation or are de-facto foundational pieces for the 2013 team. And while I do believe that Ivory Latta is the Mystics' best player, she still needs teammates to make her shine, and the 2012 Mystics' players have helped her do that. I will even go so far to say that Trudi Lacey deserves more credit for the Mystics in the Mike Thibault era if this team's core as it is advances in the playoffs not only this year, but also in future seasons as long as they remain in DC.
Obviously, saying all this seems like it makes me seem like I am flip flopping from my previous stance that the Mystics need a new foundation for future long term success. That has not changed in the least.
I am still very skeptical that this team as currently constructed can be a perennial contender and given that I believe in the Ted Leonsis Ten Point Plan as the best way to rebuild the Mystics, I just have a hard time believing that this current core can be part of a perennially contending Mystics team. That means that this team is quite possibly getting on the dreaded "Treadmill of Mediocrity." Even at first glance, Mike Thibault could be a coach who may be putting this team on that track, because in Connecticut, he led a team, mostly without drafted A-List stars to eight playoff appearances in ten years.
All that said, the Ted Leonsis Ten Point Plan isn't the only way to build a perennial contender, and Mike Thibault is an elite WNBA coach. So if anyone can make this team a perennial contender another way besides a traditional rebuild despite my skepticism, it's Mike Thibault.