Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week it is Miami Heat assistant coach Ron Rothstein, who won his second NBA championship in 2013. He was the inaugural coach of the WNBA Miami Sol until the WNBA team disbanded in 2002. He had a 48-48 record from 2000-02.
Seattle Times: Congratulations on a second NBA championship. I’m guessing things are hectic since winning Thursday and the parade Monday?
Ron Rothstein: I’m relaxing, enjoying my time off with my grandchildren. Just exhaling. It was an amazing experience.
ST: After San Antonio forward Tim Duncan missed a shot late in the fourth quarter of Game 7 that could have tied the game, did you think that was the shot that decided the series?
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Rothstein: To put it on one shot is not fair to either team. The timing of it made it, yes, stand out. It was unfortunate for him and fortunate for us, no doubt, but you can’t say that one shot made all the difference in the world. It was very much like the series I was in 25 years ago when I was an assistant coach with the (Detroit) Pistons. We went back to LA ahead 3-2 and they won Game 6 by two points and Game 7 by three points and they won the championship. We (Miami) were this year’s Lakers and the Spurs were this year’s Pistons of 25 years ago.
ST: Watching the series brought back memories of the Sol. Ever reflect back on coaching that team?
Rothstein: I’m still in touch with a lot of the young ladies that played for us. Still in touch with (Storm assistant) Jenny Boucek and Marynell Meadors, who was my director of scouting. I see and talk to Ruth Riley the most. I loved that job. I was very sad when the Heat decided to give the team back to the league. Very disappointed. We were poised to make a real run at the championship.
ST: You were the first WNBA team to get dunked on (Lisa Leslie in 2002), ever get ribbed for that?
Rothstein: (Laughs) I called a timeout when it happened. Everybody was high-fiving everybody, including the girls on our bench. The game was still going on. People were running on the court, (Sparks coach) Michael Cooper ran on the court and high-fived Lisa Leslie. The game was still going on!
ST: So you didn’t call time to let everyone celebrate? The Sol was up 11 when it happened in the first half.
Rothstein: We won that game (82-73). We broke down and somebody didn’t cover the backcourt. She got away. So, I called a 20-second timeout and said, ‘Look at the scoreboard. We’re kicking their (expletive), OK! What are we doing here? Get yourselves together; we’ve got a game to win.’
ST: What about afterward?
Rothstein: On our way back to the hotel we were in the middle of a police chase, the car was going the wrong way on the interstate. That was crazy. We didn’t get back to the hotel until well after 1 a.m. Our bus was on the side of the road where the police apprehended the guy and Lisa Leslie drove by, stopped and got out of her car to see if we were OK. It was absolutely crazy.
ST: Wow. But with Lisa being first, what do you think of the WNBA now having at least five players who can dunk?
Rothstein: It’s a natural progression. In the three years I coached I thought the level of play increased. Everything was multiplied and it was just a matter of time. … To compare the league from 2002 to now, there’s no comparison.