The Washington Mystics were one of the WNBA’s great stories in 2010. Despite not having star guard Alana Beard for the season, under Coach Julie Plank and General Manager Angela Taylor, the Mystics won the Eastern Conference regular title before falling to eventual Eastern Conference champion Atlanta. The arrival of Katie Smith brought some veteran leadership, and Crystal Langhorne, Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding blossomed, playing All-Star quality ball all season.
Cut to the off-season, though and turmoil seemed to take over the franchise. Taylor was let go, and when Plank didn’t want both the Coach and GM position, she also was not retained. Former Charlotte Sting coach Trudi Lacey was elevated to Coach and GM of the Mystics on November 25, 2010, and the changes began.
As her first season at the helm of the Mystics’ begins, I spoke to Coach Lacey about her team, it’s offseason and the changes that took place.The most important thing for the 2011 version of the Mystics to have success, in my opinion, will be a triumphant return for Alana Beard. She is more than just an All-Star, her work ethic, personality and leadership make her crucial to the team's season. Smith was able to take over a lot of that role last year in Beard's absence, but with Smith now in Seattle, AB needs to re-establish herself as the team leader. Coach Lacey discussed AB's health and what she means to the team.
Moving an unhappy Harding was the major off-season move made by the Mystics, but a lot of that trade also had to do with the success the Atlanta Dream had against Washington last season by featuring a post-dominated lineup. The crucial part of the Harding departure was the arrival of former All-Star Nicky Anosike from Minnesota, as Lacey re-shaped the posts on the roster, adding not only Anosike but drafting Ta'Shia Phillips and Victoria Dunlap to the returning Langhorne and Chasity Melvin. Lacey discussed her new stable of posts.
The offset in that trade of course, was the loss All-Star point guard Harding. That trade did bring Kelly Miller, a former WNBA champion point guard to the team, and the Smith trade brought in rookie Jasmine Thomas. Still, without Harding and Smith, it's obvious that Miller has to step up , and others will definitely have to contribute. Lacey agreed with that assessment.
One loss the team was not counting on, however, was Currie to an ACL tear. She has an outstanding 2010 season, and seemed poised for more when she went down. Dunlap will be taught to play some SF, and Beard will help out there too, but it's going to fall on former Maryland star Marissa Coleman to step up and take hold of that position and make it hers. Lacey talked about the need for Coleman to become the team's SF.
There will be some growing pains for this team, especially at the beginning of the season with the new faces getting used to each other, but people have to realize the Mystics are a young team, and accept those struggles. Melvin and Miller have 22 years of experience between the two of them, more than the rest of the roster combined! Three rookies can all have an impact - Phillips, Thomas and Dunlap. Phillips was discussed above in the post section, but Lacey also discussed Thomas and Dunlap.
However, perhaps the most important thing that Lacey needs to do this season is show the fans the Mystics are not falling back to the pack, and the moves that were made, from the hiring of Lacey to the trades of Smith and Harding, were all made with the intention of growing, building and improving the franchise. They need to be fun to watch, win some games, and continue to promote the great personalities that are on this team. They have improved uniforms, and different players. Now, it's up to the Mystics to get people in the seats. Lacey feels D.C. has the best fans, and she welcomes the challenge.
So will the Mystics find themselves fighting for a conference title again, or will they be fighting for a playoff spot? They have made changes, but are they for the better? Trading Harding in the division hurts, but was necessary. The other teams in the East also made changes, but the jury is out on those moves too.
It's going to be a fun summer, and Swish Appeal will be covering it all!
To hear the entire interview with Mystics' Coach and GM Trudi Lacey, click here.