- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

The Washington Mystics will announce their new coach at a news conference today at MCI Center but won’t confirm the identity of the replacement for Marianne Stanley.

Basketball sources said either former Cleveland Rockers coach Dan Hughes or former Washington Bullets forward Rick Mahorn will be the seventh Mystics coach in seven seasons. Stanley resigned Jan.21.

Hughes, the WNBA coach of the year in 2001, guided the defunct Rockers to three playoff berths in four seasons and a 71-54 record. Cleveland had the league’s youngest starting lineup last season but finished 17-17 and made the playoffs.

Mahorn, who was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks from 2000 to 2002 under Lon Kruger, interviewed with Mystics consultant Pat Summitt last week in Knoxville, Tenn. Summitt is the coach of the third-ranked Tennessee women’s team.

Mahorn is the Detroit Pistons’ radio color analyst. Mahorn also coached the Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association in 1999-2000. He was a two-time CBA coach of the month and led the Lightning to the American Conference title and a playoff berth with a 15-7 record. In addition to his radio work, Mahorn is employed as a consultant by Hutt Sports Group, a sports marketing company.

Other candidates included ESPN women’s basketball analyst Nell Fortner, who coached the U.S. women’s team that won Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000, and legendary Louisiana Tech women’s coach Leon Barmore.

Still, Hughes appears to be the most qualified for the Mystics’ opening.

In 1999, he took over for fired Charlotte Sting coach Marynell Meadors and went 10-10 on an interim basis. Hughes led the Sting to the playoffs and their first playoff victory.

Hughes, an Ohio native, could be reunited with former Rockers center Chasity Melvin, whom the Mystics selected with the second pick overall in a Jan.6 dispersal draft. The 6-foot-3 Melvin averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season for Cleveland.

Hence, whoever becomes coach would find himself in a situation unlike any of his six Mystics predecessors with a true center who can score in the paint.

The Mystics, predicted by many to win the WNBA’s Eastern Conference last season, instead wound up with the second-worst record (9-25) in the league despite a talent-laden roster.

The Mystics have the second pick overall in April’s WNBA Draft and probably will try to upgrade at point guard. If the Mystics keep the pick, they will land either Connecticut’s Diana Taurasi or Duke’s Alana Beard, the top-two players coming out of college this season. Both Taurasi and Beard are combination guards, but either would significantly upgrade the Mystics’ playmaking abilities.

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