Smaller WNBA coaching staffs mean more work, less communication
When the Storm is on the road, Jenny Boucek, the team's director of player development and scouting, has to stay home.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Storm @ Atlanta, 4 p.m.
ATLANTA — Storm coach Brian Agler can often be seen preparing for games on team flights, balancing his computer on his tray table to watch game film.
It's what Agler means by his mantra, "living in the moment."
But when the Storm (24-4) plays Atlanta (18-11) on Tuesday, Jenny Boucek will be in Seattle watching film of three possible first-round playoff opponents.
A new rule allows teams just one assistant coach. For the Storm, that's Nancy Darsch, with Boucek coming in this season as director of player development and scouting. Coaches say the rule has made communication harder while increasing work for little pay.
"It's a lot more challenging," said Boucek, who was head coach of the disbanded Sacramento Monarchs. "There's a lot of things that go on that are spontaneous when you watch a team a lot — tendencies, patterns. I can't give them all an individual report and because they can't focus on a game until it's there, I'm working way ahead on a road trip and can't talk to them about a game I just scouted."
Boucek isn't alone in not liking the new system. From Phoenix to New York, coaches shared their concern that what was proposed as an economic move is a hindrance that hurts the product.
Under last year's rules, Boucek would have traveled with the team on its current three-game, eight-day trip. She would have split scouting duties with Darsch, and after practice Boucek would have spent time working with the Storm's deep reserves.
Instead, Boucek is making two public speeches this week and breaking down film for the postseason while communicating with Agler and Darsch via e-mail, phone and text about the reports she has already submitted. Darsch has more responsibilities, too, coaching the post players and helping the deep reserves get more specialized attention.
"I don't think it's good for any team because these players want to be coached," Agler said. "And coaching is more than just showing up to the game. There's a lot of work that goes into it. There's a lot of preparation. I'm hoping we'll go back to get an extra assistant or multiple assistants who can travel."
By midseason, some teams simply worked around the new rule because of the need to have coaches. The WNBA Board of Governors stated teams can travel a party of 15, so Tulsa made assistant Tammy Bagby the media contact, too, and she travels with the team. Connecticut simply brings 17, including a media contact, ignoring the rule. The Storm has replaced injured players with Boucek. She even paid her own way to San Antonio once.
"It puts a lot of pressure on everybody to have to do more," said Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors, who has reported Connecticut and Washington to the league for traveling with more than 15, but said the WNBA does nothing. "It takes away from your coaching and I have another title that I've got to deal with in GM (general manager). I really need an extra person on the road.
"It's supposedly financial, but it's not when some are traveling more people. Make up your mind."
It's hard to say what the lack of one assistant really does to talent on the court. Some NBA teams have four assistants and can't win.
"The part that's amazing, to me, is only having 11 players," said first-year Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson. "I'd rather have more players. If you've got the best players, you've got the best chance at winning. You're not going to out-coach anybody."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
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