Dishin & Swishin 8/15/13 Podcast: Is Brian Agler the WNBA Coach of the Year?

Brian Agler
Seattle Storm head coach Brian Agler. Photo: Seattle Storm.

The winner of the WNBA’s Coach of the Year award usually resides at the top of their conference. In fact, the last coach to win the award who did not come from a first or second place team was former Minnesota Lynx coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. She received the accolade in 2004.

This season, one would have to give Cheryl Reeve, Carol Ross, Pokey Chatman, and Fred Williams the advantage. With no disrespect to any of those coaches, this is the year that the award should come from a third or fourth place team, and there is no shortage of candidates.

In Indiana, Lin Dunn has survived an injury-decimated roster and has her team contending for a playoff spot after a 1-7 start to the season. Mike Thibault in Washington has changed the culture in D.C. in just one season. He has the formerly downtrodden Mystics fans believing in themselves and the team is in the playoff hunt. Dan Hughes has the Silver Stars fighting for a playoff spot despite injuries taking both Sophia Young and Becky Hammon.

On today’s podcast, we are joined by a person doing perhaps the best coaching job this season, Seattle’s Brian Agler. He has seen it all in his coaching career, and has been on both the championship side and the re-building side of franchises. He was WNBA coach of the year in 2010, when the Storm won the championship behind Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, two of the best in the world.

The Storm came into this season without their two superstars, Jackson and Bird, due to injuries. The WNBA roster and salary structure forced them to suspend Jackson for the season, effectively keeping her off the salary cap, but they had to keep Bird on the roster. In other words, a max salary player taking up one of the eleven roster spots that could not play. In addition, Ann Wauters, Katie Smith, Ewelina Kobryn and Svetlana Abrosimova did not return from last year’s team.

Camille Little, Tanisha Wright, and the recently re-signed Ashley Robinson are all that remains (other than Bird) on the roster from 2010. Tina Thompson, capping her career, returned from last season and provides both good minutes and inspiration. Veterans Temeka Johnson and Noelle Quinn have been added, and more minutes given to younger players such as Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssa Clark and the team’s number one draft pick Tianna Hawkins.

This is not the Seattle Storm of years gone by. They are vulnerable at KeyArena, one of the best home court advantages over the years; their home record is 5-5. The team that averaged over 80 points per game in 2010 now averages 70. No Storm player was selected to the All-star game until Thompson replaced the injured Brittney Griner.

Still, they are in the fourth playoff spot, two games behind Phoenix, two and a half ahead of San Antonio.

Which is precisely why Brian Agler is coach of the year at this point of the season. Indiana has Tamika Catchings. Washington has Ivory Latta and Crystal Langhorne. San Antonio has Danielle Robinson. They comprise consistent star talent for their teams this year. Seattle does not have that. They are winning with teamwork, support for each other and different players stepping up as needed. Agler has assembled a team that knows it will be in it until the end; 14 of their 22 games have been decided by less than ten points.

Agler discusses what makes this team unique, the wealth of talent in the WNBA coaching ranks this season, the rest of the season and what needs to happen for the Storm to succeed. He also pays tribute to two legends retiring after the season that have been on his teams: Tina Thompson and Katie Smith.

In the second part of the podcast Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press returns to discuss the Coach of the Year race for 2013. Who should be the top candidates? What should qualify someone to be coach of the year?

Do you think Brian Agler is coach of the year? Lin Dunn? Mike Thibault? Someone else?

Enjoy the podcast!

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