- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

Tom Maher, the first-year coach of the Washington Mystics, will return next season despite leading the team to at least the second-worst season in the franchise's four years.

Following the Mystics' 20th loss in 29 games Wednesday's ugly 42-36 defeat by the Miami Sol at MCI Center general manager Melissa McFerrin said Maher, an Australian, deserves at least another season to fix what went wrong this season.

"I think Tom has had a difficult season I don't think this is the season that he anticipated when he came here," McFerrin said. "I'm sure that he will take some things from this season and use them as learning points going into next season about this league and about this team.

"I expect Tom is going to make those kinds of adjustments," she said. "Tom has shown over time that he is a team builder, and maybe we haven't seen that growth yet, but I expect we will in the future."

Maher, 48, is the team's fifth coach in four seasons. From an image standpoint, the Mystics would look rather foolish if they fired another coach. Instead, McFerrin is hoping stability will lead to some semblance of success.

Maher, the WNBA's first foreign-born coach, said he wants his team to close out this disastrous season with dignity and class. The Mystics have three games left, two of which are against playoff-bound teams.

"Other than personal things that would be a lot worse in everybody's life, none of us will have a greater opportunity to show our character in a sporting situation than we have now," Maher said. "This is an opportunity for us to show that we've got some class and be able to look back and say, 'Well, I've conducted myself with integrity and honor and dealt with it when it was a real tough situation.' "

Maher's unfamiliarity with the league's players hurt the Mystics from a scouting perspective. His loyalty toward recently unproductive players like All-Star guard Nikki McCray, who has shot 4-for-21 in her last two games and 0-for-9 from behind the 3-point arc, has hurt.

For some reason, the Mystics never responded to Maher's up-tempo system. With three games left in the season, players still struggle in Maher's halfcourt sets and ultimately stand around looking confused. Maher has a Herculean task of teaching the Mystics to play in a structured system.

Other than leading scorer Chamique Holdsclaw (16.6 points), the Mystics have no other viable offensive option a situation Maher and McFerrin will have to address in the offseason. A total roster makeover is a possibility.

Asked if she anticipates a massive housecleaning, McFerrin replied, "No, I do not," but added, "That's something that I will evaluate after the season. That's not anything I've spent a lot of time thinking about."

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