By Charles Hallman
The 2014 WNBA playoffs officially begin Thursday: Minnesota hosts San Antonio in game one of the best-of-three first-round series. But actually, the regular season’s last couple of weeks have been playoff-like as post-season slots were still undecided going into the final week of action.
“It is anybody’s game to win it this year. The competition has heated up,” observed Los Angeles GM and interim coach Penny Toler. She is one of only three Black coaches among the eight post-season field.
Fred Williams’ Tulsa club didn’t make the cut. But last year, at the helm in Atlanta, he became only the third Black coach in league history to lead a team to the championship series. After his Shock completed its first season under his direction last weekend, Williams shared his insights into what it takes to prepare for the post-season.
“As a coach, you have to prepare the team like you did in day one,” explained Williams. “A lot of teams have gone through some losses and [winning] streaks.” The first two rounds of the playoffs are best-of-three sets while the finals are the best of five — win seven games and you’re champs.
“You don’t have many streaks in the playoff. The only [bad] streak you can have is one [defeat]. After that you could be done,” Williams continued.
Asked, in no particular order, the important ingredients necessary for post-season success, the coach said, “It takes a lot of chemistry among the players themselves in that locker room. There are a lot of things the coach can’t control. You got to have good leadership from your veterans.”
Fostering the right mindset at this time of the year, especially when every player is tired, is a must as well. The players must “have the mindset of what you’re prepared to do to stop the first and second pass in [the opponents’] offense,” added Williams.
The “second season” is “about adjustments. It’s about how you control the rhythm of the game, stopping the flow of transition breakouts,” explained Williams. “It’s about matchups. You have a little bit more time for practice. You have more breakdown films [to study] on everybody’s signals and calls.”
Success also involves more than the five starters clicking as one: “You got to have the sixth or seventh player to step up” as well, said Williams.
A short series therefore puts a huge premium on winning the first game, and as a result and even more so, having the home court advantage. “It’s nice to have the home court, but you want to secure it right away [by winning],” said Williams, adding that a good team can advance without it, however. “Back when I was in Atlanta, we never really had home court, but we still came out and got into the finals.”
All eight playoff teams begin the post-season with identical 0-0 records “because the teams are really balanced,” said Williams.
“Everybody’s beatable,” said Toler in a Sunday Associated Press article.
After overhearing a local reporter complaining in the Lynx media room about being a WNBA post-season award voter, our belief is reaffirmed that the media, or at least some of its representatives, shouldn’t be allowed to make such decisions. Three reasons why: a) they don’t appreciate the honor, b) they don’t or won’t do the proper homework, relying instead on eenie-meenie-miney-moe voting methods, or c) both.
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