The WNBA: where it’s been, where it’s going

Roster size — go to even or stay odd?


First of a four-part series



Although it’s America’s longest running women’s pro league, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is still seen by too many as below major league status. The MSR talked about this and related issues with coaches, players, analysts, fans and league officials throughout the league’s 17th season; their insights are included in this multi-part series on the WNBA.


Injuries perhaps hurt the WNBA more than any other pro league. Each WNBA club has 11-player rosters, and unlike other leagues they do not have an injured reserve list.

Indiana this season began the year with only eight healthy bodies due to injuries. San Antonio lost the services of their starting point guard for the season but couldn’t replace her on the roster. Two of Seattle’s players were out for the entire 2013 season.

The Minnesota Lynx a few years ago kept Seimone Augustus on the roster despite the fact that she couldn’t play for most of it because of a knee injury. But because there isn’t an injured reserve, the team either had to keep Augustus, which they did, or waive her if they wanted to fill her spot on the roster.

Will the league ever return to 12-player rosters as the NBA has maintained for decades?  Perhaps even add a three-player reserve or “inactive” list as do their male counterparts?

“Every year the topic of our roster size comes up, and every year we evaluate it,” admits WNBA President Laurel Richie. “We have discussed it in the past in our competition committee and I’m sure we will discuss it again this year.”

It should be seriously discussed and seriously considered when the competition committee folk get together later this year. The league isn’t AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) — it’s pro basketball. WNBA team rosters should be restored back to

WNBA President Laurel Richie Photo by Sophia Hantzes
WNBA President Laurel Richie
Photo by Sophia Hantzes


“I think everybody would like that — players, coaches, fans, players who aren’t in the league,” noted Seattle Coach Brian Agler when asked about expanding rosters.

“All coaches would like more players, but that’s not something we have any control of,” adds Washington Coach Mike Thibault. “It’s between the players and the league when they have the collective bargaining agreement. Coaches basically stay out of that.”

Speaking of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the WNBA players and the league, it expired October 1. Richie said during the Finals earlier this month that she expects a new CBA be in place for the 2014 season next year.

“I look forward to where we have a new agreement that bodes well for the future of the WNBA,” says the third-year president.

Next week: How good or how poor was media coverage of the WNBA this season?


They, not us, said it

“A few of them asked me how I felt being famous, and I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m famous,” said Lynx guard Seimone Augustus at a recent youth health awareness camp for local middle-school children of color. “They just wanted to touch us. It was like a thrill.”

“I believe when we are sitting down at the end of the season, we will have more teams operating in the black than we did at the end of last season,” said WNBA President Laurel Richie on more than a couple of league clubs showing a profit.

“It wasn’t anything that happened overnight. If they needed someone to be more vocal, I’m someone they will listen to,” said Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson when asked to be a more vocal team leader this season. “I have no problem taking on that role.”


They’re gone

Three teams — Phoenix, Tulsa and Atlanta — currently have coaching vacancies. Unfortunately, two of the teams formerly employed Black coaches: Corey Gaines in Phoenix and Greg Williams, who led Atlanta this season to a league runners-up finish.


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