Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

WNBA: Front Office Shake Up In D.C.

Guru update: An email from Mystics arrived a little while ago with terse statement from Sheila Johnson saying GM Angela Taylor and Washington couldn't agree to a new deal with the expiration of her current contract and a brief thank you with no quote from Taylor. Where have we seen this before? Read post below which went up 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Looks like NY and Chicago have a worthy candidate for their vacancies. - Mel

By Mel Greenberg

General managers of conference frontrunners are becoming an endangered species in the WNBA.

Less than two weeks after Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski was let go by the New York Liberty following a one-woman show of sorts in the front office as general manager and later president for 14 seasons, it now appears that the likable Angela Taylor is no longer the GM of the Washington Mystics as of sometime Friday morning.

Both vacancies involve two teams that tied for first in the Eastern Conference with both setting identical franchise records of 22-12.

Washington was bounced quickly by the Atlanta Dream 2-0 in a pair of routs in the first round of the playoffs and then New York suffered a dispatch by coach Marynell Meadors's quad 2-0 in the Eastern finals.

Taylor's departure if it has happened, and signs indicate that, ironically, came on a day that President Obama's chief of staff and longtime friend Rahm Emanuel left the White House to go home to Chicago to run for mayor.

Technically, Taylor can follow him to the Windy City where a GM spot could be open on the Chicago Sky but let's not digress too much.

The Guru had spoken to Taylor several times in recent weeks and there certainly was not any indication that she has plans to leave the Mystics.

Hired in October 2008 after a front office stint with the Minnesota Lynx Taylor had gone on to hire Julie Plank as head coach, The duo then proceeded to give the Washington franchise its greatest appearance of stability since its arrival in the WNBA to begin play in the summer of 1998.

The addition of free agent signee Katie Smith before the season gave the Mystics' locker room in the Verizon Center some veteran leadership on the floor and also some key wins in close enocunters during the rugged Eastern Conference race.

The team also succeeded despite losing former Duke All-American and WNBA All-Star Alana Beard to an injury before the season got under way.

Taylor, who played during the Stanford era in which the Cardinal won two NCAA titles in 1990 and 1992, could often be seen during games along with chief executive officer Greg Bibb working the crowd to keep an attentive ear to Washington fan base.

She has also been an aide to Renee Brown in the WNBA home office involving player relations.

In the Guru world here is how events rolled out on Friday.

A note from a source elsewhere in the league sent a message asking what came down in Washington.

A while earlier Taylor, who is technically savy and had a twitter account with the word GM in her identity, had sent a tweet wishing plank a happy birthday.

Then a little later she posted a quote from John Maxwell, not the infamous "Jiggy" who at one time was the daily PR operative in the WNBA home office, saying, "A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position."

That tweet was soon followed by another from Taylor, saying, "Hey tweeps, just a heads up that I am changing my user name to @AFTaylor22."

Later Taylor responded to an inquiry saying the "double deuce" was her high school and college number.

Just prior to that she saluted Stanford's 119th anniversary.

A call in the early evening to Taylor elicited a text response that she was out at dinner and would check in later.

The Guru had another item to tend to Friday night so did not really chase the story because it might just be an organizational realignment following Ted Leonsis putting the Mystics under his ownership last summer.

Sheila Johnson, who had been the owner, remains as the front person of the WNBA organization.

Furthermore, the Mystics did not issue any kind of release Friday, not even in the terse style in which MSG Sports in New York had announced the departure of Blezejowski.

And finally a glance at the Mystics website in the organizational submenu in the middle of the night revealed that Taylor's name no longer existed among the front office staff.

So one does not have to be involved in politics in the nation's capital to find intrigue that never really goes away from the Washington franchise.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sky, which finished last in the East but has the third best chance among the Tulsa Shock and Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 1 pick in the WNBA lottery draft on Nov. 2, announced a re-organization under owner Michael Alter.

Adam Fox, who had been chief operating officer, was promoted to the position of president and CEO, while former president Margaret Stender was named chairman (chairwoman?) and minority owner.

Technically, Blazejowski functioned in New York in a similar position as Fox's new titles, but it is not known whether he will be the personnel wheeler-dealer.

The Sky still needs to hire a coach and depending who the franchise lands, such as John Whisenant of the former Sacramento Monarchs, Steven Key's successor might function as coach and general manager.

Former LSU coach Pokey Chatman has been mentioned for the coaching vacancy but she reportedly has said she had not yet been approached by anyone but would surely listen.

Back in New York there are no new reported ripples in the process of replacing Blazejowski and former coach Anne Donovan, who is now at Seton Hall, a position she announced before the WNBA season began.

More might be known later on the Washington front and the Guru is on the case.

What USA Revenge?

Two upsets in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic removed two threats to the Americans Friday when the host Czechs brought down the defending champion Australians while Belarus upset the Russians.

The USA, also known as the UConn grads (plus senior Maya Moore), will meet Spain Saturday in one of the semifinals while the Czechs and Belarus will meet in the other.

Those with short memories noted the USA was deprived of revenge in the wake of the Australians eliminated after beating out the Americans in 2006.

Well, yeah, they were deprived of revenge, but it was the Russians who knocked USA off the road to gold along the way in 2006.

And USA did get some revenge as it turns out because the win over Australia in the previous round reversed the competition schedule in the medal round or the Americans would have met the Czechs instead.

That could happen anyhow if the home team wins its game and the USA beats Spain, but it could also happen, for the record, if both teams lose the semifinals and play for the bronze.

Of course WNBA All-Stars Lauren Jackson of the newly-crowned champion Seattle Storm and Penny Taylor of the previous champion Phoenix Mercury aren't going to beat anybody shooting blanks the way they did Friday.

Note To The Boneyard

The Guru appreciates how deep into his posts you all read and takes no affront but yes, the Guru, writing off the top of his head in the middle of the night in a previous post, did miscount the UConn reference.

Prior to the cut of former All-American Renee Montgomery, the number six existed among the former Huskies under UConn coach Geno Auriemma on the USA squad.

So, correct, the count is five former UConns and senior Maya Moore.

Erin, from afar in Boston tries to make corrections in the morning if she's reading the Guru's posts, but having to work for a living instead of for fun like the Guru has been doing since April, she's not always able to do a sunrise edit.

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I smell a rat in the Angela T. dismissal.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I smell a lot of rats in this and other decisions by the new executives at monumental. Things have definitely gone downhill there since the death of Abe Pollin. He was a man of integrity and fairness. The staff loved him. As a season ticket holder, I'm certainly not a happy camper. It looks like the upper management is transforming the Verizon Center into a good ole boy network. More to come.

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