Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with Angela Taylor, who returned to the WNBA after a four-year hiatus when she started her own consulting firm. Taylor recently was promoted to president of the Atlanta Dream after being hired in January as the team’s general manager. She retains the GM role. She has signed French Olympian Celine Dumerc and selected Shoni Schimmel in April’s draft.
Seattle Times: New York snapped your franchise-best win streak (six games) but the bigger picture is Atlanta’s 0-9 record in the WNBA Finals. You’re new … is that talked about in-house?
Angela Taylor: It’s perspective. I don’t think any organization in any league has accomplished being in the Finals three out of four years. But we understand that’s not our ultimate goal. That’s to win a championship. Coach (Michael) Cooper (in his first year with Atlanta) and I understand that the bar is high and we don’t want to mess this up. But we want to elevate expectations.
Q: You made some roster changes that might help, like Dumerc, who is 31. I knew she was a strong offensive player, helping France win its first Olympic medal (silver in 2012). I didn’t know she was a good defender. Has that surprised you in her first WNBA season?
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Taylor: In the Olympics, the competition is at such a high level, you don’t notice some of those little things. We weren’t sure on a consistent basis in the WNBA, because it’s so physical, what defensively she’d be able to do. You can tell she’s a veteran. She’s familiar with Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen, playing with and against some of these players for a long time. It’s such a joy to sit and watch a true point guard.
Q: So you’re not surprised given she’s only played seven games due to overseas play?
Taylor: Not surprised at all. It just reinforces the reason every single general manger in the league sought after her the last few years and wanted her in the WNBA. She’s been on my radar since my time in Washington (2009). She’s a true point guard, and I know our post players love it. It’s been less than a month that’s she’s been here, and it’s different than international play. So, offensively is where we’ll probably see her become more dynamic.
Q: Chemistry with Angel McCoughtry seems better, too. She was suspended in 2012 and blamed for a coach’s firing. Have you found her to be unfairly judged?
Taylor: There are perceptions about Carmelo or LeBron, that’s just what we do as a society. We’ve been ecstatic about our team in general and our leadership from Angel, specifically. … She trusts us now in understanding we’re going to put players around her that are going to complement her to take pressure off her to allow her to do her thing.
Q: Does rookie Shoni Schimmel, who’s Native American, have a bigger following than in college at Louisville?
Taylor: That’s a surprise. We’ve taken a proactive approach in making sure we’re aware of the support that Shoni has internationally. It’s been interesting to see. We’ve partnered with Native American organizations and taken their advice to heart in using this platform that Shoni has provided to the Dream and the league. Every road trip, there are at least 30 to 50 people by the bus waiting to take pictures with Shoni, and she’s driving ticket sales everywhere we go.
Q: Wow. So, Atlanta is really becoming big time, you even redesigned the locker room at Philips Arena?
Taylor: That’s coach Cooper and what he learned with Pat Riley — the devil’s in the details. It was a surprise unveiling and you heard the shrieks of excitement. It’s those little things that resonate in bringing a championship to Atlanta.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067
On Twitter @JaydaEvans