- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

Richie Adubato watched game film of the Chicago Sky, the Washington Mystics’ next opponent, until after 2 a.m. yesterday. After a few hours of sleep, he woke up and abruptly called in his resignation as coach of the Mystics around 9 a.m.

The longest-tenured coach in the franchise’s checkered 10-year history — two seasons and four games — quit after failing to get an extension on his two-year deal that was to end after this season.

“I was looking for a vote of confidence and it wasn’t there,” said Adubato, who felt last week’s trade of veteran center Chasity Melvin for second-year small forward Monique Currie set the Mystics back in the short term. “I was looking for some security. Obviously, [management] feels they can reach that championship level a little faster than I do. I have had rookies and young players, but there is no substitute for experience. It’s a growing process.”

With interim coach Tree Rollins at the helm last night, the Mystics (0-5) continued their franchise-worst start with a 75-70 loss to the Sky.

In front of a sparse crowd of 6,391, Melvin posted 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against her former team. Candice Dupree led the visitors with 19 points. Washington shot 32 percent and lost a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Alana Beard led the Mystics with 19 points, while Currie struggled in her home debut and finished with seven points.

Just last year Adubato led the Mystics to a record number of wins. Washington went 18-16 before losing in the first round of playoffs.

Adubato hoped the offer would come during the seven-month offseason, and admits he probably made a mistake not pursuing it earlier.

However, he was willing to go through his final contract year as a “lame duck coach” with essentially the same team as last season. He felt it had enough experience and talent to win the Eastern Conference title.

That changed with the trade.

Adubato’s agent approached the Mystics last week about an extension and felt positive about conversations with owner and managing partner Sheila Johnson and general manager Linda Hargrove. But talks apparently broke down.

Hargrove said the Mystics have a policy of not reworking contracts until after the initial contract expires. Adubato said he was unaware of the policy until recently.

Despite attending last night’s game, Johnson was not available for comment, according to a team spokesman.

“I was shocked,” said Hargrove, who said she only heard of the contract issue in the last day or two. “We really like Richie. We felt he did a very good job with our team and looked forward to more years with Richie. If that is how he felt, I am sorry. That is not a reflection of how management felt.”

The issue came to a head last week after the trade, which took away the Mystics’ best post player and came despite Adubato’s protests.

“If you are trying to win a championship, you need veteran players and talented players,” said Adubato, who won three Eastern Conference titles in New York before coming to the Mystics. “It was more or less about the contract and then the trade. I wasn’t overly happy with the trade, but I think it will help down the road. I was not happy because all of a sudden we were inexperienced up front. The third thing was Crystal Robinson retiring.”

Robinson, a 33-year-old shooting guard, retired on Thursday to become an assistant coach with the Mystics, making the team even younger.

As the Mystics played last night, Adubato packed up his apartment a block from Verizon Center. He will return to his home in Orlando today and hopes to get another chance to coach in the WNBA.

“I’m not sure why this happened. I guess going 0-4 might have had something to do with it,” said Adubato, who previously was a head coach in the NBA with Detroit, Dallas and Orlando. “Basically, after last year’s success, I thought I deserved a contract extension. I have never done this before. I have never resigned before. I have been fired. It feels like I have been fired.”

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