Ten games into the WNBA season, more or less, and several things are becoming clear about the 2010 iteration:
1. Good assistants arent necessarily good head coaches. Granted, Cheryl Reeve has had to overcome injuries to arguably her best three players Rebekkah Brunson, Candice Wiggins and Seimone Augustus but the Minnesota Lynx have played even worse than those losses might suggest. They dont defend (their best effort was giving up only 73 to Chicago, and they still lost by 15), and they have handed Tulsa two of that weak teams three wins.
It doesnt help that Lindsay Whalen has been less than impressive in her return to her home state, and though the trade that brought her and Monica Wright for Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery isnt quite as bad as the worst trade in WNBA history (that distinction would have to go to another Lynx transaction -- Katie Smith to Detroit for Chandi Jones and a draft pick who never contributed), it certainly hasnt made Reeves job any easier.
Then again, Reeve hasnt shown the ability to get the Lynx to play up to their potential, even after a solid stint as an assistant for the Detroit Shock. There is a difference between suggesting and deciding, and Reeve is finding out just how big that difference is.
2. Good players, and nice people, arent necessarily good head coaches. Lisa Leslie was certainly a great player, one of the best ever, but her retirement is not nearly enough of a reason for the Sparks to be 3-7. Sure, theyre old, and yes, Ticha Penicheiro has been hurt, but even so, L.A.s talent shouldnt be five games below .500 so naturally, the fickle finger of fate points directly at Jen Gillom.
Gillom has done pretty well coaching at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, but her time in Minnesota, and her time in L.A., lead inexorably to the conclusion that she just isnt cut out for the pro game. There were concerns about how shed handle the egos on the Sparks, and the 3-7 record plus dismal defense, bad rebounding and shaky ballhandling -- indicate those concerns were justified.
Everyone likes Gillom, and she was a very good player in her day, but so far, shes been overmatched as a WNBA coach.
3. Atlanta is years away from making any money at all. Most observers thought Atlanta was a horrible choice for expansion because there has been no historic interest in womens basketball, or for any other sport not named football or spring football. Even when the Braves were winning division titles year after year, they couldnt draw so why would anyone have believed the WNBA could thrive there?
The answer to that is still unclear, as despite rebounding nicely from a 4-30 inaugural season, the Dream have trouble getting 2,000 people out to Phillips Arena to see a 7-3 team chock full of exciting, interesting players. It was understandable that Atlantas crowds would be small when the team was awful, but now attendance is even worse despite the attractive product.
Realistically, owner Kathy Betty is looking at years of seven-figure losses before theres a chance to break even and what if the team reverts to horrible again? WNBA history suggests that winning teams can make a little money and losing teams will lose a lot, so not only must Betty create a market out of pretty much nothing, she needs to do so while still having a winning team every season.
Of course, wed all like the Dream to be a WNBA success story, but the signs are not good. I would imagine shell give it at least one more season, but if Atlantas fans continue to come disguised as cupholders, Donna Orender is going to be looking for another Tulsa sooner rather than later.