Since she was hired on November 1, 2010 as the Washington Mystics' head coach and general manager, Trudi Lacey has been a target for Mystics fans' ire. Most of it was because the team just had its most successful season with a 22-12 record, but the team couldn't come to terms for a contract extension with then-GM Angela Taylor, and subsequently couldn't get then-head coach Julie Plank to also be GM.
Last season was a 6-28 campaign due in part to a roster overhaul and injuries to Alana Beard and Monique Currie who both missed basically the entire season (Mo played four games once the Mystics were out of the playoffs).
This year, the team is off to yet another bad start with a 1-3 record, with a roster that I have to say sucks after the Big Three of Crystal, Monique, and Matee. Maybe the players themselves are good, but they're not meshing like I would have hoped.
I really tried to give Lacey a pass for 2011 because much of what she inherited wasn't in her control. I also wanted to make a point that another WNBA coach, Brian Agler, didn't have a successful first go-round as the Lynx head coach, but ultimately won a 'ship in 2010 with the Storm; but this is about Lacey, not Agler. And I almost forgot, Agler kicked some serious tail as the head coach of the Columbus Quest of the defunct ABL, though the ABL and WNBA were different leagues, and he didn't get the job done with the Lynx.
Either way after what I have seen since November 2010, it is time for ownership to fire Coach Lacey. I did not come to this conclusion easily, and I honestly wished that I wouldn't have to reach this conclusion either. At any rate, here is why.
Reason 1: Trudi's building strategy is upside down! This strategy shows that Lacey is meddling around and will NOT be able to produce any long term progress for the Mystics franchise!
This is BY FAR the number one reason.
I have hammered again and again and again and again in writing that any team that is looking to win championships in the future needs to BUILD WITH YOUTH. The owner of this team says that is paramount to build a great team starting with youth. It is literally the bible for nearly every pro sports team in DC. Even the Redskins are doing it now with RGIII!!!!!
At the beginning of last season, it looked like the Mystics were going to do just that. There were four rookies wearing Monumental red jerseys to start the season (Victoria Dunlap, Ta'Shia Phillips, Jasmine Thomas, and Karima Christmas). Phillips and Christmas were fired in the middle of the season, while Dunlap played spot minutes. Only one player, Jasmine Thomas, the lowest Mystics first round pick that year played meaningful minutes throughout the season. If you want to say that she was hired to be Sue's backup in Emerald City, I don't care! It was painfully obvious even then that she was a Mystics draft pick, considering that Katie wanted out.
This year, only ONE of the two first round draft picks made a team that was 6-28 last year, who is Natalie Novosel from the University of Notre Dame. She just earned her second DNP-Coach's Decision yesterday, because Coach Lacey either thinks her veterans are too valuable, Natalie is not good enough, or maybe both! However, Novosel hasn't had much of a chance to play this season, so how can I say that she as a first round pick sucks in the first place?
Is Lacey's building issue partly a WNBA trend? After all, teams like Seattle and Phoenix have added pieces around their star players with veteran players to help win ships. LA added a past her prime Tina Thompson and Ticha Penicheiro in recent years, to try to help win Candace a 'ship. Either way, it is undeniable that most of the better WNBA teams do this to extend their championship windows for as long as possible. After all, even I wonder why the Storm would want to add players past their primes like Ann Wauters and Tina Thompson when it appears that the team may be past its championship window.
However, Seattle and Phoenix are glamour teams with three of the WNBA's top players. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson wear green and gold. Diana Taurasi wears purple and orange, and their presence alone can attract the Svetties, the Ann Wauters, and even Penny Taylors (remember she was taking 2009 off), who are the kind of vets that can be the glue players to take a team further in the playoffs! Even past their prime, they still can contribute, even though a nasty rebuild will come sooner or later.
The Mystics are the Anti-Storm and Anti-Mercury based on league perception. They will NEVER, EVER GET A CHANCE AT ANY OF THESE VET GLUE GUYS!!!!!! So why get multiple flawed vets and tout them as something they aren't?! Create and DEVELOP YOUR YOUNG PLAYERS INSTEAD TO BE THE GLUE GUYS OF THE FUTURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reason 2. Coach's Veterans Are Flawed, None Of Whom Were Known As "Glue Guys" On Their Previous Teams
Lacey has wanted to build with vets. Well, she forgot that THE BIG THREE is made up of.................... VETERANS!!!!!!
Each of the Big Three has been on this team for at least four years each and developed into a starting caliber player or better thanks to being part of a YOUNGER CORE THAT DEVELOPED TOGETHER IN THE PREVIOUS REGIME!!!! If a four year career doesn't turn a player into a veteran, then I don't know what the hell a vet's minimum career length is!
Mo, Lang, and Matee can provide the leadership for the young troops on this team! I get the point of grabbing maybe one older veteran who has been a solid complementary piece on a previous winning team. However, Lacey just happened to get a very large number of players, none of whom were particularly known for being that type of player.
Coach Lacey calls herself a "defensive coach." Well, she's a rebounding coach, and I guess that's defensive. The Mystics outrebounded their opponents yet can't make buckets consistently OUTSIDE OF THE BIG THREE!!! I myself said before that the Big Three must produce big point numbers to stay competitive unless more players started to make more shots. Thankfully, at least two of the Big Three (Mo and Lang) scored in double digits. Otherwise, it is likely that we'd be blown out of the Sky yesterday. Pun intended AND UNINTENDED!!!!!
On the surface, it may seem that Coach Lacey really changed from focusing on building with young players to older players this season. That's not true. She had a lot of rookies in the beginning yes, but she didn't play the rookies often, and cut those rookies for vets DeMya Walker and Kerri Gardin midseason who really didn't help the team on the win-loss column. This season she replaced them with more vets.
Reason 3. Where's the Young Player Development?
What development? There was none to begin with!
This already ties with the first point to a large degree, so no point belaboring the issue. But even a team that is comprised of veterans still needs to nurture the talent of players who have not hit their peaks. That helps the team stay successful over a longer period of time. Even on older WNBA teams, younger players have developed into starters like Camille Little of the Storm over the past several years. The Silver Stars drafted Danielle Adams who was a huge boost for them. On the Mystics, I wouldn't be surprised to see them cut with Lacey at the helm..
Reason 4. Coach Lacey's teams have folded in the last seconds of multiple games over the last year and the trend continues this year with "coveted veteran leadership" around the Big Three.
Last year (2011), the Mystics lost a number of games in the closing seconds and possessions of the game, including back to back buzzer beater losses against the Fever on July 29 with a Shannon Bobbitt shot and the Dream on August 9 with a Sancho Lyttle bucket. There were other losses that season that were lost in the last minute of the game, including against the Liberty on August 16 with a Cappie Pondexter layup and the Sky on August 20 with Epiphanny Prince icing the game with clutch free throws on 0.7 seconds left. Losses like these may have convinced Coach Lacey that she needed to overhaul much of the roster with players who wouldn't fold in these situations for whatever reason whether it's mental mistakes, or fear of failure.
This year, after overhauling some vets and young players for more vets, these issues are popping up again. The Mystics lost back to back games in the final seconds of the game against the Lynx (which really should have been a win based on momentum), and against the Sky (definitely had to be a win based on the last minute). These losses have all been with a revamped roster, AND with everyone healthy or at least playing. This is unacceptable and someone must be accountable, and that has to be Lacey. Why? She either drafted (Nasty and Thomas), signed (Canty, Snow, Wisdom-Hylton), traded for (A-Rob, Lacy, Quinn), or re-signed (The entire Big Three was re-signed) everyone on the team this season. Lacey also got assistant Marianne Stanley to return and also got Jennifer Gillom on board.
In the End....
I usually am patient in rebuilds for the most part and don't call for the coach's head immediately after one bad year or even two. This is often because players may not be behaving professionally which I certainly have seen earlier this winter with JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche of the Wizards. But as far as I can tell, the Mystics' players for the most part are taking their jobs seriously and the coach who is supposed to make everyone as successful as she can clearly couldn't do it last year, and the same thing is happening this year.
The biggest thing that solidified my opinion on why Lacey needs to go is because I just don't see the type of team that she is envisioning aside from rebounding. Lacey wanted an uptempo team. They aren't playing uptempo, and against Chicago yesterday, there were five shot clock violations (please tell me I'm wrong but I don't think I am). Using 24 seconds to meddle on offense is not playing uptempo. Lacey also wanted to see a defensive oriented team. Aside from rebounding, the Mystics make mental mistakes on D when the game is on the line. Both of these issues were present last year with a different roster, and are still here today.
Even if this team makes the playoffs, I just don't see the team being able to be a consistent contender in the long run, which would likely put them on the treadmill of mediocrity that Nate talked about in his points about the Mystics earlier. Well, because the Mystics are a have not in the league, why should they be dying to get on that treadmill?
While I believe Lacey has to go, this is no personal shot at her or anyone on the team. Lacey actually is a very nice person otherwise. However, it is clear to me that the team is meddling and going into reverse, and she has to be held accountable for it.
The Season Continues...
The Mystics play tomorrow against the Connecticut Sun, which lost against Minny yesterday. While the Mystics played their best game against the Sun in the preseason, the Sun's players certainly want to bounce back from the Lynx loss and get revenge on the Mystics, even if it was a preseason game.
Would I love to laugh at myself if the Mystics turn it around somehow and win the 2012 Finals? Sure. I definitely will. However, I just don't think that this team can do that based on what I've seen.