Now starring as the fall guy: Jenny Boucek
Just when it seemed the Sacramento Monarchs had enough momentum to reverse its losing streak, the axe fell on former head coach Jenny Boucek. With a third of the season underway, the team announced Boucekâ€™s firing late Sunday evening. Monarchs General Manager John Whisenant will assume the teamâ€™s head coaching role while still maintaining his responsibilities as the organizationâ€™s general manager.
â€œI want to thank Jenny for her efforts and contributions over the past two-and-a-half years,â€ said Whisenant who stepped down as head coach of the Monarchs after the 2006 season. â€œThe team is 3-10 overall; we still have over half the season left and we felt it necessary to make this change. We feel like this is a playoff-caliber team that can compete and to dig ourselves down any further wouldnâ€™t be prudent.â€
Overall, Boucek is the fall guy for the teamâ€™s underperformance that has less to do with her coaching and more to do with personnel management, an area that falls more into the general managerâ€™s realm. The Monarchs roster was largely shaped by Whisenant.
Plagued by injuries and a wait for rookie Courtney Paris to adjust to playing in the pros, the Monarchs were league basement dwellers. Yet, in Saturdayâ€™s home overtime loss to the Phoenix Mercury, there was a sense that the Monarchs were ready to turn a corner. They seemed to be playing with urgency, maybe sensing the GMâ€™s feelings about Boucek and playing to help their coach keep her job (that type of motivation should not be a part of the teamâ€™s arsenal during games). After all, the run-and-gun Western conference leaders Phoenix Mercury have demolished teams at home and on the road and it took an overtime for them to prevail over the Monarchs June 13 at Phoenix.
Saturdayâ€™s loss also gave Monarchâ€™s rookie Courtney Paris the opportunity to quell some doubts about her conditioning and preparation for life as a professional player. The former Oklahoma star had her best performance so far this summer. Paris sparked some of the consternation herself with unfortunate comments she made last week to The Oklahoman newspaper about her knowledge of the league before she became a pro.
"I canâ€™t honestly say I was familiar with a lot of the players and what they do,â€ she told the paper. "In the summers, I was doing stuff, so itâ€™s not like I paid attention as much to the WNBA.â€
Longtime fans with a deep respect for the game were aghast and wasted no time critiquing Paris for her incredibly imprudent remarks.
But Saturday Paris took her pro game to the next level with a performance that showcased her talents. She finished with a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Monarchs lost the game when Phoenix guard Temeka Johnson hit a buzzer beating 14-foot running shot, giving her team a 107-105 win.
"It wasn’t designed for me, but I was left open and I was able to knock it down," said Johnson of the last play of the game. However, Johnson did not lack the confidence to make the winning shot as defender Ticha Penicheiro scrambled to guard her.
â€œI took the extra dribble and went to the basket. I knew there was still time to make a shot.â€
Boucek thoughts on that last play: â€œIt was one-on-one. We broke the play up and she got the ball and she went one-on-one and shot the runner.â€
Boucek has a lot of support around the league among players and die-hard fans. The "players coach" was in her third season with the Monarchs. She led the team to an 18-16 record last season and a 19-15 finish in 2007. She was an assistant coach during the 2004 WNBA Championship run with the Seattle Storm. She spent three seasons with the Storm (2003-05), also advancing to the WNBA Playoffs in 2005.
Boucek began her coaching career in 1999 as an assistant coach for the Washington Mystics and she is the first person in the WNBA to have spent time as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach.
She has plenty of experience as a successful coach in the league. It will come as no surprise if another team picks her up before the season ends. And if that does not happen, there is always the greener, more stable pasture of the NCAA.