Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman talks about the season and the team’s future
By the Fourth of July, the Los Angeles Sparks’ season had been declared a wash. With Candace Parker and Betty Lennox out for the season and a 5-13 record, fans were also calling for new Coach Jennifer Gillom’s job. No one believed.
That is, except Kathy Goodman.
The Sparks’ co-owner said the vision she had prior to the season didn’t waver, even when the road bumps appeared.
â€œI never doubted that we’d make the playoffs,â€ she said. â€œThere was a moment in the third quarter [of the last regular season game] where I was like, â€˜is this really not going to happen?â€™ But that quickly passed.â€
Goodman’s vision expands to the big picture, as well: she and co-owner Carla Christofferson have arranged for space for a new championship banner at Staples Center, to go with the ones from 2001 and 2002.
â€œOur goal is and has always been to seal a championship team,â€ Goodman said.
But as has been well-documented, the road to that championship has been paved with difficulties. Lisa Leslie was out for Goodman and Christofferson’s first season at the helm after having a baby. The Sparks were one game away from the WNBA Finals in 2008, but lost on a last-second shot.
Last year Parker was out half the season after childbirth, and Leslie missed several games due to injury. Then came the Parker and Lennox injuries this yearâ€”a season in which fans were shocked that the Sparks did make the playoffs after pulling together midway through the season.
Goodman maintains a sense of humor through all the trials and tribulations.
â€œThereâ€™s the improv part and the scripted part,â€ she said. â€œOn the court is the improv part. You put the best possible people on the court, and then there’s nothing you can do. Another improv part is that people get injured, and there’s nothing you can do about that, either.â€
As high school coaches have to deal with parents, Goodman has to deal with her friends and acquaintances.
â€œPeople will text me during the game asking, â€˜why isn’t so-and-so in?â€™â€ she said. â€œI tell them, â€˜I’m in the same seat you’re in, I have no idea,â€™ although sometimes I’ve wanted to send a text message to the Sparks bench.â€
Now that the season is over, the Sparks staff will once again focus on growing game attendance and obtaining sponsorships. Goodman said she’s been pleased so far.
â€œAll the things we believed about our team when we bought it have borne out; like that the fan base would be loyal independent of what goes on, on the court.â€
Goodman said that during the 2007 season, when the Sparks didn’t make the playoffs for the first time, their season ticket holder base increased 10 percent. It grew the next year when the Sparks drafted Parker.
â€œPeople that come to games like it,â€ she said.
Goodman said that one of the first sponsors they signed after the takeover was Trader Joe’s, a company that is still with them. They haven’t lost any other sponsors, either.
On the subject of coaching personnel, Goodman was cagey when asked if Gillom would be back next year. She did say that fans were too impatient when the Sparks got off to a slow start this year.
â€œPeople were calling for Jenâ€™s head, and we were like, â€˜can we give them a second?â€™â€ Goodman said.
In the meantime, at the press conference after the Sparks’ first-round loss last week, Gillom said she was going to â€œbuild a team around Candace Parkerâ€ next year.
Goodman acknowledged the large number of free agents on a team where only DeLisha Milton-Jones currently has a multi-year contract.
â€œOur veteran players need to decide what they want to do, and we’ll build from there,â€ Goodman said. â€œStability is good, but it can become a limiting factor.â€
That’s where General Manager Penny Toler may come in according to Goodman. Her view on Tolerâ€™s outlook on players:
â€œPenny’s strength is that there is no one who isn’t tradeable.â€
Kathy Goodman on Twitter: @goodla