WNBA off-season action slow





By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Will the Minnesota Lynx re-sign Charde Houston, a restricted free agent? Nobody’s asking this question, which is typical among the local mainstream media who ignore WNBA off-season moves, but the veteran forward is among 21 restricted free agents around the league still unsigned for the 2012 season.

Since Feb. 1, WNBA teams now can negotiate with their own “core” and “reserved” players, as well as “restricted” and “unrestricted” free agents. Minnesota already has re-upped both Taj McWilliams-Franklin (core) and Jessica Adair (reserved), and did a sign-and-trade with Alexis Hornbuckle and sent her to Phoenix Feb. 2.

Monique Currie (Washington), Erika DeSouza (Atlanta), and Deanna Nolan (Tulsa) are the remaining unsigned core players, down from five at the start of the year. Candace Parker (Los Angeles), Essence Carson (New York) and Houston are among the most notable restricted free agents still on the board.

Minnesota announced last week that former restricted free agent Candice Wiggins was re-signed for the upcoming season. Future hall-of-famers Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Katie Smith headline the 24 remaining unrestricted free agents.


Needed: more Courtside with Coquese 

It’s not Hard Knocks, the HBO series that gave viewers an inside look at an NFL team’s training camp, but a program featuring this season’s Penn State women’s basketball team might be a model for such season-long, in-depth programming that somehow eludes female athletic teams.

Courtside with Coquese is a weekly all-access show that follows Penn State Head Women’s Basketball Coach Coquese Washington and her players during the season. All episodes are shown on Comcast in Pennsylvania and on BTN, Thursday mornings at 9:30 am CST.

“It’s not intrusive,” says Washington after her team’s Feb. 5 victory over Minnesota at Williams Arena. A two-man camera crew follows the team’s every move from the locker room to the playing floor, practices and games, including sticking a microphone in the team huddles during timeouts, as well as pre- and-post-game press conferences.

“It doesn’t bother me. I forget the cameras are there,” continues Washington, who’s in her fifth season at Penn State. “I have a good relationship with [the film crew], and they do a good job of not airing things that we don’t want public. Sometimes you say things that are supposed to stay in the locker room.”

She also is participating in “Ask Coach Quese” each Tuesday on LadyLions.com, a website exclusive to PSU women’s basketball, where she answers fan questions. The players and coaches also interact with fans on Mondays.

These vehicles are giving Penn State some much-needed positives as it showcases the women’s basketball program, which for years under Washington’s predecessor was oft-accused of homophobic practices. Thus far the Lady Lions have avoided such negative press, not unlike the school’s football program, which was hit with a scandal that cost the president and longtime football coach their jobs this past fall.

Instead PSU has been nationally ranked all season long; last season they finished second in the Big Ten regular season and tournament and an NCAA tournament berth.

Washington is the only Big Ten women’s head coach to have won an NCAA championship (assistant coach at Notre Dame, 2001) and a WNBA championship (Houston, 2000). She also was founding president of the players union (WNBA Players Association, 1999-2001) and helped negotiated the league’s first two collective bargaining agreements.

Although the team looks like they’ll get a first-round bye in the conference tournament in March, as well as an NCAA bid, “I don’t feel like we’ve jelled yet,” says Washington. “Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we can find our rhythm.”

BTN all season long airs programs on the 12 Big Ten men’s basketball teams — most notably The Journey that chronicles the men through their season. It’s a great show, but    no such “tracking” programs are done with the 12 league women’s hoops teams.

Furthermore, the one-in-a-blue-moon women shows that BTN does broadcast seem to be restricted to once a week showings as opposed to multiple repeats of men’s shows, sometimes in one day, or they are aired at out-of-prime-times such as early mornings or other undesirable slots.

Why isn’t such gender inequity talked about more?


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.