- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Washington Mystics president and part-owner Sheila Johnson is fed up with her team’s perennial losing, and she wasn’t afraid to show it Tuesday.

Johnson delivered a scathing indictment of her franchise’s 11-year history, then announced that she and first-year COO Greg Bibb have developed a new operating philosophy committed to maintaining a sharp front office and a winning roster.

“The Mystics have been operating too long without a long-term plan,” Johnson said. “In the three years I have been owner and general partner, our thinking has been far too shortsighted and our player-personnel decisions far too needs-based. That all ends today, and from this point forward my basketball people will take a long-term view of winning, and anyone not on board with that … will find him or herself no longer part of the Washington Mystics family.”

Since joining the WNBA in 1998, the Mystics have had 10 coaches, won just a single playoff series and are 70 games under .500.

The constant instability and inconsistency have made Washington a bumbling franchise, stuck in a continuous cycle of rebuilding and unmet expectations.

“We cannot continue on this path,” Johnson said. “The Mystics have not moved one ounce in their 11-year history, and we’ve got to start making some changes because it’s the only way this team can survive.”

The improvements started in the front office, where Johnson said the franchise has never been better structured. Bibb revealed he has reworked the culture of the front office and said it was time for the product on the court to reciprocate a “culture of accountability.”

That could mean sweeping changes if the Mystics don’t improve when the season resumes Aug. 29. They have a 10-16 record but remain two games out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games left. Johnson wants to see an improved work ethic for the remainder of the season.

“Every one of our players knows that no one is untouchable,” Johnson said. “By the same token, it is really important that they get the message that this is a job. This is not just fun and games now that they’re out of college and in pro basketball.”

Although Mystics management has committed to turning the franchise around before, Bibb expects the front office to follow through with its commitment this time.

“We believe we have the plan in place to move forward,” he said. “I think there’s a strategic path to take that wasn’t there in the past, and we’re confident the changes we’re gonna make are going to pay dividends down the road. But we can’t be held hostage by past decisions and past performances or we’ll go nowhere.”

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