How can the WNBA grow? How can the ladies grab more viewers and move beyond their current status?
What exactly is their status?
An informal poll of hardcore, twenty-something Portland Trail Blazer fans, may hold a clue.
They spoke to the issue of watching the games.
I asked questions, which I’ll list as Q. I’ll list their answers as a combined A.
Q: Do you watch WNBA games?
A: I’ll be honest, I’ve seen parts of games for a few years.
Q: How do you like them?
A: Over the past few years they’ve gotten better, good enough to almost watch.
Q: What’s been the difference?
A: They move more like basketball players, more what you’d expect from professional players.
Q: What do you expect from them?
A: They play more like men.
Q: Is that the goal, playing like the guys?
A: Not really, but it’s important to see risk in sports. Now they make the cuts that destroy knees, they go inside with intent. Now they look like they could beat a high school team, maybe even an AAU team of teenagers.
Q: What changed?
A: Their game is changing the way the NBA did from the 50’s to the 80’s. Now there’s less dribbling, stopping, and looking around before passing. Now the games have more flow to them.
Q: How can they make the game even better?
A: Coaches. They need well-known coaches who understand the way women can play.
Q: Which coaches are you thinking of?
A. Mike D’Antoni first of all. Once you get court spacing down and fix the player rotation, he’d let them play. With Kurt Rambis and former Blazer Johnny Davis signing on as Laker assistants, D’Antoni might be moving.
Q: The system you think would work sounds like the way George Karl coached.
A: And he’s available. But there’s other coaches the WNBA could use. Portland’s Terry Stotts could coach women. So could Monty Williams in New Orleans and Rick Adelman in Minnesota.
Q: I’m getting the sense of a Portland theme. Why? Who’s next, Nate McMillan?
A: Three are coaches who don’t push their own playing experience, who aren’t holding players to an unreasonable standard from the past. Nate was too hard on his guys, especially point guards. His nick name Sarge fits.
Q: Who else would be a poor WNBA coach?
A: Jason Kidd. He’s got baggage. Eric Spoelstra. Not for baggage, but because he’s been too close to greatness and no one will ever match that, but they’ll feel pressure to try.
Q: Anyone else you could see coaching in the WNBA?
A: Mark Jackson from Golden State. He gets his players to buy into the moment, to focus on the game situation without taking anything away from them.
Q: That’s what it looked like in the play-offs this year. If those guys coached in the WNBA, would you watch?
A: I’d like to see if they make a difference.
Sports fans need to understand the foundation of games, that winning is the best reward, but it doesn’t always work out. When you’ve got a maniac coach who wins, it takes something away. When you’ve got players who look afraid to play their game, something is lost.
These are great days for Baby Boomer-aged coaches who work in the NBA and WNBA. Players like former Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer coaching the New York Liberty and the well traveled Tree Rollins assisting with the Chicago Sky.
They bring experience you can’t find anywhere else.
Will the WNBA and NBA eventually hire coaches who are interchangeable? That can only improve both leagues.