On Coaching Changes, Free Agency, and the Offseason
In the past two days, we have seen two coaching changes in the WNBA. Wednesday, the Tulsa Shock announced former Fever assistant Gary Kloppenburg as its new coach. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Sparks named former Atlanta assistant Carol Ross as its new coach.
One thing that both hirings have in common is the naming of longtime assistants with quality teams to their first pro head coaching positions. Kloppenburg was a longtime assistant here in Indiana whose teams won the Eastern Conference twice and reached the WNBA playoffs in four straight seasons. Ross’ three-year tenure in Atlanta was very similar, helping the Dream to a pair of WNBA Finals out of the Eastern Conference.
Rather than hire from a list of recycled former WNBA head coaches, or from a selection of college or NBA candidates, both the Sparks and Shock drew from very firmly established and successful teams – the Fever and the Dream. Kloppenburg and Ross both will be welcomed to new cities, but neither will have much of a learning curve when it comes to learning their new teams; or knowing personnel across the league; or scouting for free agents or college prospects. Both should be able to hit the ground running — which will certainly be important as the WNBA approaches its season of free agency.
Speaking of free agency, teams may begin speaking (negotiating) with restricted and unrestricted free agents on Jan. 15. February 1 is the date which teams may begin signing any new players. Indiana will certainly be active in this market, as always, so be sure to stay tuned in coming weeks for player movement with the Fever and around the league. WNBA.com annually posts a page with player movement that lists all trades and free agent signings which should be active shortly.
The core of the Fever roster probably won’t change much, as Indiana prepares for an eighth consecutive playoff berth and once again makes a bid to reach the WNBA Finals. And just as Kelly Krauskopf added Tangela Smith as a key free agent in 2011, fans can expect Indiana to be active in trying to lure some top players again.
Also on the horizon is the announcement of the league’s 2012 regular season schedule, which could be coming within the next week or two. I have actually seen the new Fever schedule, though not all dates are final across the league. What we do know, in order to accommodate the 2012 London Olympics, is that the regular season will begin in late May and there will be a month-long break during the second half of the season.
Beyond free agency, of course, is the annual WNBA Draft which still is over three months away. And interesting this year is that the date of the draft, April 16, is later than it ever has been. Typically, the draft date closely follows the NCAA national championship game. Last year, the national title game was conducted on the Fever’s home court on April 5 and the draft took place April 11. This year, the NCAA title will be decided on April 3 with the draft almost two weeks later. Rookies will arrive in their new cities for training camp barely a week after their draft selection.
It’s still winter time in Indianapolis, but the seasons are changing.
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