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The Tulsa Shock Coaching Change: From Normal To Not In Nothing But Minutes

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Nolan Richardson in perhaps his last coaching huddle. (Photo courtesy of Troy Littledeer)
Nolan Richardson in perhaps his last coaching huddle. (Photo courtesy of Troy Littledeer)

After the final buzzer of Friday's 86-78 loss to the Phoenix Mercury, the round of post-game activity at the BOK Center started in the quite normal and usual manner, just another day at the office for the Tulsa Shock.

A head coach meeting a waiting press corps to talk about the game, the highlights, the areas of opportunities, just like every other home game over the past 14 months.

"As I spoke with the young ladies telling them that they really fought hard, that's the thing. They battled all the way through it once again," Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson said as he looked forward to a rematch on Sunday. "Well, we don't have to scout 'em anymore, we've done enough scouting tonight with them.

"We know they're a good basketball team, they play extremely well at home, extremely well. They shoot the ball extremely well so we're going to have our work cut out but again I think that for our ladies it's important for them to go out - for the challenge and show that they're able to play with anybody."

 

A locker room full of players was glad to point out the positives in their performance despite defeat, while looking optimistically towards the next game on the schedule, a rematch in Phoenix.

"It was really exciting, we were right in the game," Kayla Pedersen said as she sat and smiled from her locker on the end. "It felt very nice to be back in the game after getting blown out last week. I'm just seeing all positives from today.

"I think we're excited to play them again. We had them right there and it's going to be at their place so the crowd will be great. I'm excited, I want another shot. I think it's a blessing that we get to play them back-to-back because this is going to be fresh on our minds."

A new member of the organization reflected on her first week with the franchise as a happy one.

"The morale of this team has been great," Doneeka Lewis crowed sitting in front of her first WNBA locker since 2008. "From the first day I came here, if I hadn't known that they were 1-9 I wouldn't have known that from being around them. I think that's what it's going to take: for everybody to stay on the same page and keeping that morale up in order to go in the direction that we want to go."

The team played hard and gutsy after cutting an 18-point deficit down to six going in the right direction in game's waning minutes. The Shock players and staff got greeted by loud cheers from the stands despite falling short in their comeback bid. There was nothing too much out of the normal, every day scene at the BOK as owners milled about before, during and after the game.

And then the best laid plans to rebuild a franchise took a dramatic shift into uncharted territory. The post-game soundbites became obsolete before the soles of the shoes that were in the stands hit the heat of the Tulsa pavement.

"Despite the disappointing start to this season for the Tulsa Shock, the decision to consider a coaching change in mid-season was extremely difficult," said co-owner David Box, released in a late-night statement. "Coach Richardson is a legendary basketball coach who has earned the respect of the collegiate and professional basketball family for an exceptional body of work during his impressive 30 plus year career ... Our entire organization and team wish him only the very best and will always consider him a part of our Shock family."

The normal day at the BOK became anything but. Head coach no more, Nolan Richardson relinquished his duties as the floor general, the moniker he called himself the first time he spoke at 2010 open tryouts. No pomp and circumstance for the man who was hand-picked to lead the team on the floor and in the office from the general manager's seat. Instead, just a few words penned expressing gratitude to the organization and best wishes to his successor in the interim, Teresa Edwards.

"We are fortunate our basketball operation is headed by one of the most respected basketball minds in the profession in Teresa Edwards," Box said. "Ms. Edwards has an impressive career spanning three decades at the highest level of competition including as a member of five U.S. Olympic Basketball teams where she earned four Gold Medals.

"Teresa knows our team well and the players respect her management, leadership and passion for the game ... We look forward to supporting Coach Edwards as she moves our team forward this season."

No glitz and glam to usher in a change. Just a few words of respect from the newest head coach in the WNBA for lessons learned from a mentor in life and basketball, followed by a sense of urgency to get to work. There is another game slated for Sunday in Phoenix, after all.

Just another day at the office.