Editor's note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with...
Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with WNBA president Laurel Richie, who was in Seattle to participate in the Storm’s Women of Inspiration night on Thursday. Richie also was dealing with a week that saw firings, suspensions and no-shows.
Seattle Times: How do you view Atlanta where Marynell Meadors, an Olympic assistant coach, was fired and first-time Olympian Angel McCoughtry was suspended?
Laurel Richie: It’s unfortunate any time anything takes the focus off the game. But it’s very important owners and coaches run their organization in a way that they believe is to the benefit of the team, the fans and the community. They have much more information about the situation than I do and I trust they are making the decisions they feel are right.
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Q: Do you know Angel well enough to know if it’s surprising these steps have to be taken?
Richie: I do know Angel. I wouldn’t say I know her any better or any less than I’ve been able to get to know players across the league. She’s clearly such an amazing and very talented player. She’s an asset to our league … I believe the ownership and coaches of Atlanta see her as an important part of their organization. Sometimes things happen. (But) I have no doubt that they — and I include Angel — will move through this.
Q: What about Australian Olympian Liz Cambage’s refusal to play for Tulsa in order to rest post-Olympics and fulfill a lucrative contract to play in China?
Richie: First and foremost I care about the health of our players. I read an interesting article recapping a conversation Liz and Lauren Jackson had. I’m paraphrasing, but it was Lauren who was very eloquent in speaking to both respecting Liz where she is right now but also sharing her perspective on the role the WNBA has played in her life and career and both players from the United States and abroad. It’s unfortunate. But I congratulate Tulsa because they went on and won (against Atlanta and Los Angeles). Lauren provided great perspective and Tulsa rallied.
Q: Rallied? Tulsa appears to be on a little tear.
Richie: Yeah. Of all the teams this year, Tulsa’s performance and ability doesn’t necessarily show in their record at the moment. They’ve had a couple of games that were much closer than their record.
Q: I’m sure you were briefed on the arena issue in Seattle. How do you think a possible NBA return would affect the Storm?
Richie: Any time we can bring the game of basketball to more people, it’s a good thing. From my conversations with the owners of the Storm, they would welcome a team if it ends up back in Seattle, as would I. We’ll see how all of that unfolds.
Q: There’s no focus on the WNBA expanding, right?
Richie: We’re focused on the 12 teams we’ve got. What’s really nice is I have had what I would call genuine and capable expressions of interest in teams. When we’re ready, we’ll reach out. I can see that in our future. Last year we had three teams (Connecticut, San Antonio and Minnesota) that were profitable. We’re hoping that will happen again this year. The point of expansion will come very naturally.
Q: Where are you off to next?
Richie: I don’t know my next team visit, yet. All I know is I have a quiet (holiday) weekend at home.