…like someone making the transition from a long-hair to short. Now comes the big reveal – does the cut suit?
FIRST: If you haven’t purchased a WNBA League Pass yet, I sniff haughtily in your general direction. There’s a free trial going on from today through May 18, but even if you NEVER use the beast, you should step up and purchase it. Heck, if you’re a college coach, how about you explore making it “required viewing.”
SECOND: As a wise woman named Lin Dunn once said – if you celebrate players who’ve made the WNBA with posters and such, you better celebrate the league. Coaches and SIDs should collaborate on content over the summer. The “newbie” programs on WNBA rosters should look to other college programs to see what they’ve done to highlight their graduates, but feel free to break the mold. Lots of different social media platforms out there… and a lot of “old school fans” who don’t know how to access them. Think “weekly email blast with pictures and links.” (Ummm… that goes for you, too, WNBA mothership and WNBA teams.)
THIRD: Watch parties anyone? It’s hard to get to a WNBA game. There aren’t that many teams and they’re scattered all over the place. How about a big screen watch party?
FOURTH: Celebrate the journey… and that it ain’t over…
Ok. Done now. Moving on to some reading material.
Harvey at the New York Times: As W.N.B.A. Opens Its 20th Season, Key Figures Recall the First Game
On the inaugural game day, Penny Toler drove into an arena parking lot transformed into a carnival of child-friendly slides and noisy roller coasters to behold what for her was the most distinctive sight for a historic occasion.
It was the decorative surprise that Johnny Buss, of the family that owns the Los Angeles Lakers, had furtively told her was coming. Giant posters of Toler and four teammates were draped along the exterior of the Great Western Forum, welcoming Toler to the Los Angeles Sparks, to the W.N.B.A. and to a game in her home country after eight transient years in which she had played professionally in Italy and Israel.
“I had tears in my eyes,” Toler said.
Catchings, who enters her 16th and final WNBA season in 2016, recalls the turning point of her WNBA career as coming near the halfway point of the 2009 campaign, when she and her teammates began playing for their franchise’s life.
“That season, we had to win,” said Catchings, a 10-time WNBA All-Star and 2011 league MVP.
The Fever responded favorably to the rumors about their potential demise, turning in a franchise-best regular-season record of 22–12 and advancing to their first WNBA Finals in team history. Though Indiana eventually lost the title to Phoenix after falling in five games, Catchings believes the support her team received from its fans throughout the season ultimately changed its fate. She credits a sellout of Indianapolis’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Game 3 of the 2009 Finals as the culmination of a city-wide effort to save the franchise.
Teresa Weatherspoon’s career arc dovetails with that of the WNBA, now entering its 20th season.
Weatherspoon serves as Director of Player Development for the New York Liberty, an appropriate perch for the winner of the league’s first two Defensive Player of the Year Awards to mentor last season’s best defensive team in the league.
Weatherspoon remembers what it felt like in those first few moments of the league itself.
They flail through the jungle gym, race each other through the field and play chase until dissolving into fits of laughter. They live full in their small bodies. They move about with abandon. Their frames are for speed, for dancing and shaking, for hiding in small spaces and bursting forth when they’re found. They riot awake in their skin and to watch them move is to watch them bloom, to watch them discover who they are and how they want to interact with the world.
It makes me want to search role models for them, makes me hungry to see how other women demonstrate their power and skill to the world. We talk about what it means to have a healthy body, what it means to feed ourselves and be active. We study what it means to be an athlete and realize we all want to be as fierce as the women in the WNBA. When we start to watch videos, we all start to sit up a little straighter, move our feet a little faster. We explore the way they move on court, the way they pass and drive across the floor, the way they make a community with the other players, just like my daughters do in their world.
Michelle: Inside the W with Michelle Smith
I’m not afraid to compromise any journalistic integrity to say that for 20 years, the WNBA has earned my love, my respect and a stout defense when it’s called for. The players have always been some of the most gracious and gifted athletes I’ve ever covered. When I travel to places like Phoenix, Seattle, Minnesota and Connecticut and see how those communities support their teams, I feel proud of what’s been built over 20 years.
But in order to respect women’s basketball, you have to cover it. Really cover it. Not just personalities and personal stories. Not just unicorns and rainbows.
You have to tell stories. Basketball stories. Injury stories. Stories that are true to the effort and passion that these remarkable players have given for 20 years.
That’s what we will do here, in this space every week.
Let’s tip it off, already.
Back in 1996, there were those who believed “Macarena” had more legs than the WNBA, but you win a free game of Trivial Pursuit if you can name the band that did that song—meanwhile, 20 years later, the WNBA is still in business.
Sure, the league has gone through growing pains, but it’s carved out its own niche in the sporting world, and proven that 5,000-plus people will pay cold hard cash to watch women play basketball on hot summer evenings. There are 12 teams now, and while there are still issues (the Olympics interrupt the season every four years, for one) and transient franchises (the Tulsa Shock are now the Dallas Wings), the basketball is better than ever.
The WNBA gave itself a chance to succeed when it stopped looking for a savior and Can Breanna Stewart transform the WNBA? ( You saw what I did there?)
Did you catch the seriously awesome job the Phoenix folks did? (Note to other teams: When you look up “BEST PRACTICES” in the dictionary, it reads “see Phoenix Mercury”)
Interactive timeline for the franchise’s 2o years:http://phxmerc.com/XX/
Countdown: The 20 Greatest Moments in Phoenix Mercury History – Phoenix Mercury
Sigh. I miss the Sisters of No Mercy.
Mother Mary Hoops has one fist stuffed in a boxing nun puppet and the other white-knuckled around a ruler she is using to menace a novice ref. Next to her, Sister 3 Pt. has ripped off her spectacles and is screaming, rather uncharitably, that the ref needs them more than she does. Heaven help him, he just missed an outrageous foul on Phoenix Mercury blonde bomber Michele Timms.
A fixture in America West Arena, the Sisters of No Mercy-neither nuns nor biological sisters-know about sins of omission. Former Wheaton and Ohio State ballplayers, Jan Newman (Mother Mary Hoops), 56, and Beth Ells (Sister 3 Pt.), 49, had no pro haven for their skills. “Our dream was to play basketball,” says Hoops, who’s actually a mother of two. “Now we’re playing-if not for the WNBA, then with them. We have no mercy for anything that keeps people from their dreams.”
WNBA coach Dan Hughes is ready for a new challenge.
The veteran San Antonio Stars coach announced last month that this would be his final year on the bench. The franchise has already started to prepare for his departure, announcing former player Ruth Riley as the new general manager – a position previously held by Hughes.
“I have truly enjoyed every moment of my time in the WNBA, but I reached a point personally and professionally where it’s time for a change,” Hughes said. “I know I want to stay involved in basketball, just not sure exactly what that is yet.”
As they say, love is love.
Someone I knew growing up always joked that I’d be gay just because I was into sports. Not wanting to be a stereotype, I blocked that possibility from my mind during college and my first year in the WNBA. It wasn’t until my first WNBA offseason, when a woman came up to me at a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., and introduced herself, that I personally considered dating women. I asked myself: How did I know I didn’t like something until I tried it?
My goal was to play in the NBA.
Problem: When I was growing up, the WNBA didn’t exist. The only league I could look to — to aspire to — was the NBA.
So, that’s what I was going to do.
My father, Harvey Catchings, played in the league for 11 years across four teams: the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers. My goal was to follow in his footsteps, and to conquer the league as a female. I remember that day when I was in 7th grade that I ran downstairs and told my parents about my plan. They looked at me with a smile and said, “If anyone can do it, you can.”
That Nancy Lieberman is enthusiastic about the Wings’ arrival in North Texas should not surprise. For decades, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer has been a driving force in the women’s game. As a player, she was the face of the Dallas Diamonds, a professional women’s team that played in the 1980s.
“The Wings will get tremendous support here,” said Plano resident Lieberman, an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. “Dallas was ridiculously supportive of the Diamonds when we played at Moody Coliseum.
“Dallas didn’t jump on the women’s basketball bandwagon,” she said. “It was the bandwagon.”
SKYLAR DIGGINS IS sitting in a booth in an empty restaurant near Manhattan’s West Side Highway, telling stories about a subject that’s intimately familiar to any woman who spends time on the internet: male trolls. The difference between Diggins and most women, of course, is that she has more than 600,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 1 million on Instagram, which is more than any other female basketball player on the planet. It’s more than the WNBA. So when she says she isn’t terribly bothered by guys being rude to her online because “there are too many to count,” I believe her. But that doesn’t mean she ignores them. “I block people,” she says, laughing. “I’m like Dikembe Mutombo.”
I ask whether people ever give her crap in real life. “Rarely do fans come up to me and say” — she impersonates a gruff male voice — “‘Diggins, I think your shorts should be a little shorter.'” She rests her arm on the banquette. “Ain’t no man coming up to me and saying that.”
Stewart, who is renting an apartment in Lower Queen Anne, looks forward to visits from her parents, Brian and Heather, and her grandparents this summer.
But she also anticipates starting a new stage in her life — on her own.
“This is where I live, and this is where I’m going to be,” Stewart said assuredly. “I’m fine. I got this.”
New York: From “not Jim Massie” Adam Jardy: Former Buckeyes Katie Smith, Herb Williams find niche as assistant coaches
For all of their physical differences, Katie Smith and Herb Williams are racking up a lot of similarities.
As Ohio State basketball greats — Smith from 1992 to ’96, and Williams from 1977 to ’81 — both left as the all-time scoring leader for their gender. Both went on to lengthy professional careers before moving into coaching. Tonight, when the New York Liberty opens the 2016 WNBA season at the Washington Mystics, Smith and Williams will begin their second year working together under Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer.
In both cases, their current positions represent somewhat unexpected developments in their career arcs.
The defending champions received 10 first-place votes from the national media panel on Friday. The Phoenix Mercury garnered the other four top votes and are second in the inaugural poll. The two teams will play in Minnesota on Saturday as the league tips off its 20th season this weekend.
You stay put (or as “stay put” as anyone can make a college coach be): UW locks up women’s basketball coach Neighbors
I guess they liked the “interview”: Norfolk State signs women’s coach to three-year deal
WATN? Sherill Baker joins Agnus’ Kennesaw State staff.
There is “stuff” going on on the college front that I sure as heck hope reporters don’t ignore….
On the November day in 2012 that everything really changed, Chamique Holdsclaw was looking at the 9 mm handgun sitting on the passenger seat of her car. She had it because she lived in Atlanta, and her stepfather told her that she needed to protect herself. She liked to go to shooting ranges with her friends — it was a sport, a thing to do, a way to blow off steam. It was fun.
But now the gun was her way out. She had just gone into a rage and smashed the windows of her ex-girlfriend’s car with a baseball bat. She couldn’t see anything but the gun. She considered lifting it and pressing the muzzle against her temple.
“The only thing I could think about was putting it to my head,” she said. “My hand was shaking.”