- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the heels of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Washington Mystics fired general manager Linda Hargrove on Monday.

Hargrove was named general manager in February 2005 after two years as a scout and an assistant coach for Washington. She was not afraid to deal star players to improve the Mystics, most recently sending Taj McWilliams-Franklin to Detroit.

But her moves didn’t pan out for the struggling franchise. Washington finished this season 10-24, the worst of Hargrove’s four years. Overall, it was 60-78 during her tenure with just one winning season, a persistent mediocrity that triggered her removal.

“You’re either moving forward or you’re moving backwards in this game,” Mystics chief operating officer Greg Bibb said. “There’s no such thing as standing still, and we weren’t moving forward, so we felt a change was needed.”

Because of the Mystics’ constant coaching changes - Jessie Kenlaw became their fourth coach in five years when Tree Rollins was fired July 19 - Hargrove was held responsible for the team’s ineptness on the court. She had one year remaining on her contract.

Hargrove’s firing echoes the message sent by team president Sheila Johnson last month, when she made it clear in a conference call with reporters that changes would be made if the Mystics didn’t improve over the final weeks of the season. Washington lost all eight games after the Olympic break and finished the season on a nine-game losing streak.

“Linda Hargrove is going to be sorely missed within our operation,” Johnson said in a statement. “She understood that it was time for a change in order for this franchise to grow. We parted on extremely great terms, and she will always be a friend to the Mystics family.”

With five picks in the 2009 draft, Washington could get a fast start on Johnson’s plan to establish the Mystics as a consistent contender in the WNBA. The Mystics don’t have a replacement for Hargrove lined up but have begun their search.

“The women’s college season starts in November, so it would be ideal for us to have those individuals responsible for our talent evaluation in place at that point,” Bibb said.

Hargrove’s removal is already the second move the Mystics have made in what is shaping up to be an active offseason. The Mystics re-signed guard Coco Miller last week to a two-year contract and still must decide whether they are going to retain Kenlaw.

Regardless of that decision, the 2009 Mystics will have a different look.

“We finished 10-24,” Bibb said. “We’re obviously not happy with that result, so I would think that change is going to be necessary to get us moving in the direction we want to move.”