WASHINGTON (AP) - The Washington Mystics made Trudi Lacey their general manager and head coach in a money-saving move Monday, after cutting ties with the pair of people who held those two jobs during the most successful season in team history.
Lacey succeeds Angela Taylor as Washington’s GM, and Julie Plank as the team’s coach. Owner Sheila Johnson said on a conference call that having one person hold both positions was a decision “about business.”
“We have been in a recession, and it is really hurting all teams across the board. And so we have budget constraints now that we have got to start looking at,” Johnson said. “We’re working through all of this, and everyone is fully aware that we have to make decisions _ business decisions _ … to keep our league alive and keep the Mystics alive.”
The Mystics went a franchise-best 22-12 in the 2010 regular season to finish with the top record in the Eastern Conference and earn a No. 1 seeding for the playoffs. They lost in the first round.
“We had to make some cost changes,” Johnson said. “Even though we were successful on the floor, you have to understand: We weren’t successful on the business side, and we just have to make these changes.”
Lacey joined the Mystics in 2009 as an assistant coach, then was promoted to director of basketball operations in 2010.
Taylor’s departure was announced a month ago. She left after two seasons _ and two playoff appearances _ because her contract expired, and the Mystics weren’t able to reach an agreement with Taylor on a new deal.
Johnson said Monday that she then tried to persuade Plank to stay on as coach, while also assuming general manager duties.
“Unfortunately, Julie only wanted to coach,” Johnson said. “She did not want to be a GM.”
Asked to explain the process, Johnson said: “We offered Angela a contract _ not the one that she’s usually with _ and she didn’t want it. Then I went to Julie. I offered her both the GM and coaching role. She didn’t want to do it. So to make a long story short, we’ve now got Trudi as coach and general manager. It’s as simple as that.”
In a telephone interview Monday, Lacey said the Mystics initially approached her about becoming the team’s GM and, she added, “I didn’t know anything about the two positions until very, very late” last week.
She’s been a GM-coach before.
Lacey began coaching the Charlotte Sting in 2003, then also became the team’s general manager the next year. Lacey stepped aside as Charlotte’s coach in August 2005 _ with the team a WNBA-worst 3-21 _ while keeping her GM duties until the team folded after the 2006 season.
“Any time a person has a lot of responsibilities, it’s a lot to juggle, but I think for me, the main focus is going to be focusing on our team, focusing on putting the best product we can on the floor. … It’s a great environment,” said Lacey, who played basketball at North Carolina State and coached Queens University of Charlotte. “The past two seasons, we’ve built a very strong foundation. We’re looking forward to the core of our team coming back and building on what we’ve started.”
She described herself as a “defensive-oriented coach” who likes to play “up-tempo” on offense.
“For anybody who has had any doubts about Trudi,” Johnson said, “she is just an amazing woman who’s going to really be terrific in the community at large, and she also brings just a wealth of experience in coaching.”
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