- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trudi Lacey believes in the importance of the journey. Last season, her first in a dual role as the Washington Mystics’ coach and general manager, it was a difficult road to travel.The Mystics finished 6-28, the second-worst record in the league. It was a season that was a test for the spiritual and unfailingly positive Lacey.

“It was obviously a challenge for all of us, with the injuries and the close losses, but I think that we showed tremendous character and determination,” Lacey said.

“We played hard throughout the season. I think we can go into next year with confidence, knowing that we were in every game and had a chance to win most of those games at the end.”

The WNBA draft is Monday, and the Mystics have the eighth and 10th overall picks.

“Ideally, we’d like to find a three-point shooter at the three and the four [positions],” Lacey said.

She already has begun the rebuilding task with a series of offseason trades, including sending popular Maryland star Marissa Coleman to the Los Angeles Sparks for Noelle Quinn. Four-time All-Star Alana Beard also is gone, having signed with the Sparks as a free agent.

“We were a young team last year with a lot of inexperienced players,” Lacey said. “We’re building our team around getting more versatile players who can play multiple positions and who have some experience; players who can help us win some of those close games that we lost last year.”

The Mystics historically are an underachieving franchise, with only six playoff appearances in their 13-year history. Turning this team into a playoff contender is a tall order. For Lacey, it’s just another challenge she looks forward to.

Lacey grew up in Clifton Forge, Va., a town she describes as a great place to grow up but says there wasn’t much to do.

“Basketball became my life. It’s what I’ve done all of my life. For me, basketball afforded me opportunities I don’t think I would have gotten otherwise,” Lacey said.

She was fortunate to find her inspiration at an early age.

“When I was 12, I went to a camp and had a chance to hear coach Kay Yow speak,” Lacey said. “She impressed me so much at a young age because she was just different. She spoke about assists, and how giving the ball up to your teammates is the best way to win and that just really impressed me.”

Lacey’s journey led her to N.C. State, where she was a four-year starter and All-American, followed by a playing career in Europe. She also traveled with the USA Basketball team and dreamed of making the 1984 Olympic team. She didn’t.

“It was devastating,” Lacey recalled, acknowledging it took her years to come to grips with missing out on her lifelong dream. But she found a new dream and decided she wanted to become a coach. She returned to N.C. State, earned a master’s degree and began her career as a college coach.

A decade later, she found herself back with USA Basketball. She finally had made it to the Olympics, working as an administrator.

“That was just an amazing experience,” Lacey said. “It gave me an insight into the administrative side of basketball which allows me to do the job that I do today.”

Lacey’s WNBA career began with the Charlotte Sting, where she also served as coach and general manager, but she was dealt another blow when the team folded in 2007. Lacey then joined the Mystics as an assistant coach and now finds herself running the show.

But Lacey doesn’t believe she’s come full circle just yet. For her, the journey is one that never ends, as long as you keep working hard and redefining your dreams.

“Just believe in yourself,” Lacey said. “Have confidence in your skills and abilities, and treat everybody with respect and a spirit of gratitude.”

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