Moments ago, a reliable source confirmed that Julie Plank has been named the 11th (and hopefully the last . . . at least for a very very long time) Head Coach of the Washington Mystics.
Julie brings 24 years of coaching experience (plus 4 years as a college player) to her new job. She spent 10 years as an assistant to Tara VanDerveer at Stanford, coaching (among others) new Mystics GM Angela Taylor! Her tenure at Stanford included those two Natty-winning years plus a couple more Final Four appearances. Julie also served as an assistant coach on the 2000 USA Olympic Team that won the Gold in Australia. So we guess you could say that not only has she seen first-hand what winning programs look like, she's been part of them!
Like Angela, Julie has extensive experience in and knowledge of the WNBA. She joined the Eastern Conference's Indiana Fever in 2000 and helped build that team from a 9-win expansion team into a consistent 20+ win playoff contender. In 2008, she joined the coaching staff of the Minnesota Lynx, working to rebuild that Western Conference franchise by focusing on the development of a core of young players. At Minnesota, now-GM Angela Taylor had the opportunity to observe personally how her former college coach worked with today's professional athletes. Given that she hired Julie, it seems pretty clear that she liked what she saw!
Now we'd like to digress a little, but bear with us, we'll get back to Julie . . . eventually! This morning, the BasketCases were reading an article online from Business Week. Written by Jack and Suzy Welch, it's about the lessons that business leaders can learn from Barack Obama's historic victory. Basically, it says that Senator Obama's win was built " . . . on 3 leadership principles: a clear vision, clean execution, and friends in high places."
Last night at the Mystics' Meet the new GM season ticketholder event, we were once again impressed that Angela appears to have a clear vision of what she wants to accomplish with the Mystics; she also has a plan and, it appears, the knowledge and experience necessary to execute that plan; and, after hearing from COO Greg Bibb that he, Dr. J and Ted Leonsis have made a multi-year commitment to Angela (as well as to the new Head Coach!), we also conclude that Angela has support from some "friends in high places."
So while we don't yet know Julie personally, we believe that Julie must be someone who shares Angela's and Greg's vision for the franchise; her résumé clearly points toward her having the skills necessary to execute the Mystics' rebuilding plan; and, with Angela (and Greg) firmly in Julie's camp and a multi-year commitment from the Front Office, it would seem Julie also has the "friends" and relationships essential for success.
Like the recently concluded presidential campaign, the campaign to turn the Mystics around isn't going to be quick and it isn't going to be easy. It's probably not going to reach a conclusion in a single season, or even two. But the leadership principles are there, so -- finally -- the BasketCases are hopeful that the change we need is indeed coming. With a clear vision, with proper execution, and with support from highly-placed friends, we believe that Dr. J, Greg, Angela and now Julie can (in time) turn the Mystics into winners. Yes, they can!
Photo Credit: DC BasketCases