- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2002

The Nikki McCray trade ultimately cost Washington Mystics general manager Melissa McFerrin and coach Tom Maher their jobs. In a surprising announcement yesterday, both McFerrin and Maher were fired.

On Dec. 5, Maher and McFerrin took a step in raising the sunken Mystics when they traded the underachieving McCray to the Indiana Fever. Fan favorite McCray was the biggest reason why the Mystics have never posted a winning season. Viewed as a star, McCray was unable to support her lofty reputation and was considered a "coach killer" in some WNBA circles.

Now that McCray is gone, McFerrin and Maher won't reap the rewards. Sources said that McCray was a personal favorite of owner Abe Pollin, who considered her a daughter because of all the promotional work she did for the Mystics and the WNBA.

So why didn't the Mystics just keep McCray and get rid of McFerrin and Maher? Instead, all three are gone. When McFerrin triggered the McCray deal, Maher was in his native Australia on vacation. There were also no protests from the Mystics executive office when McFerrin swung the deal.

"It's wrong to begrudge owners on the running of their ship," Maher said. "We got half of the problems right, I would have liked to do the other half."

Once again, the Mystics are seeking a new coach as well as a general manager.

The firings magnify the chaos that permeates the organization and the instability the Mystics' front office has had since the team's inception in 1998.

The Mystics have had four losing seasons and are now looking to hire their sixth coach.

"Our fans have remained loyal and passionate," said Susan O'Malley, president of Washington Sports and Entertainment. "I want them to know, not only how much we appreciate their patience, but that we are committed to finding the right winning combination for our team."

Assistant coach Marianne Stanley will remain with the team and should be considered a front-runner for the vacant coaching position if she wants it.

Stanley, who won three national championships while coaching at Old Dominion in the late 1970s and mid-1980s, is one of the most respected coaches in women's college basketball history. In her 21 seasons as a collegiate coach, Stanley (415-224) competed in 10 Final Fours.

What Stanley doesn't want is her named added to a list of former Mystics coaches. That list includes Jim Lewis, Cathy Parson, Nancy Darsch, Darrell Walker and now Maher.

Maher, who led the Mystics to a 10-22 record last season, deserved a better fate. When the Mystics hired Maher in December 2000, he moved his entire family wife Robyn, son Jake and daughter Stevie from Australia to northern Virginia where he became the first foreign coach in the WNBA.

Robyn Maher gave up prestigious jobs with Basketball Australia, the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Sports Commission, to support her husband's brief career with the Mystics. The Maher's children enrolled in local schools and they lived in the area during the offseason instead of returning to their native land.

When he took the job, Maher, who is Australia's winningest women's coach, was at a disadvantage because he was unfamiliar with the WNBA.


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