Series Note: The Storm did not advance to the postseason for the first time since 2003. The team held its exit interviews Aug. 18. This series will feature conversations from the 12-player roster. PG Sue Bird’s conversation was a feature used in the newspaper.
In a new move, the WNBA held the draft lottery four days after Seattle lost its regular-season finale to Phoenix. Seattle (12-22) and Tulsa (12-22) had the best chance to win the No. 1 overall pick, the Storm hitting the lucky number. The draft should be held in April 2015.
In addition to a top-tier pick, should Storm coach and GM Brian Agler choose to keep it, the team could look different. Alisha Valavanis, the organization’s new chief operating officer, is taking a holistic approach to moving the franchise into the next 15 years and that includes on the court.
Here’s a conversation with F Nicole Powell, who was cut by Tulsa during training camp and signed by Seattle three days later, two days before the season started. Powell was added for three-point shooting and veteran knowledge of the league. She appeared in 26 games, averaging 13 minutes. Powell, who helped Sacramento win the 2005 WNBA championship, did not play in the Storm’s final six games as Agler shifted focus to giving younger players more minutes.
Powell was a first-time assistant coach at Gonzaga prior to playing in her 11th WNBA season. She accepted a similar position with coach Kelly Graves at Oregon. Powell, a 6-foot-2 wing, isn’t expected to return to Seattle in 2015.
Seattle Times: You’re transitioning right into the college basketball season?
Powell: Pretty much. I’m moving in and taking care of stuff before I actually officially start. There’s some comfort having already worked with Coach Graves last season (at Gonzaga). I’ve been down there (Eugene) a couple of times to see the team and meet the staff, the athletic department and all of that. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s a different university, so there are some unknowns. At the same time, I’m very excited. I was house shopping during the (WNBA) All-Star break.
Q: Kelly has been re-tweeting the Ducks’ schedule and sounds excited about his first season at Oregon, have you had a chance to look it over?
Powell: Obviously I think Coach Graves is an amazing leader in what he’s accomplished. I trust him and am excited about his vision for the team. I haven’t looked over the schedule in-depth. This (Storm) season has been so crazy that I just felt like I was trying to keep up day-to-day and who we were playing in our league. But the North Carolina game (Nov. 23 in Eugene) is huge. It was cool we were able to schedule that and bring some excitement back to Oregon women’s basketball.
Q: Yes, the UNC game should be a competitive matchup.
Powell: Oregon was a hotbed when I got to play there (as a Stanford star from 2000-04). The fans, the energy – the first Pac-12 tournament was held there for a reason. To get that back, the glory and wonderful players that have been through there and their commitment to the program, we want to make it awesome again.
Q: That’s right, you did play in that first tournament. The attendance (approximately 20,000) was the best the event has seen, what do you remember about the experience?
Powell: It was a tough place to play and everybody in our conference knew it. The energy and you felt the crowd at McArthur Court was so on top of you. It wasn’t easy. Going back and seeing pictures of that full-house, oh man, that’s what it’s all about.
Q: It’s a talented team that should be able to generate some excitement.
Powell: Absolutely. They’re some great young women. There were a ton of injuries last year, so just like any team, you’ve kind of got to have the right luck and the right recruits and all of those types of things. What I love about our team is their openness. It was a hard (coaching) change for them (from Paul Westhead being fired in March). But their openness to accept Coach (Graves) and accept change — even if it’s a good change. Even for me, going into a new season and change in life, even if they’re positive, they’re challenging. But they’re embracing that. My initial reaction was just being impressed with them. That’s cool because it is an unknown for them.
Q: Do you think this is it for you WNBA-wise?
Powell: I think so. I don’t really have a plan. I haven’t had a plan the last 10 years, so I’ve been very lucky. It’s working for me. This is somewhere I knew I wanted to be and it worked out in my favor. I really like the Pacific Northwest. Everyone was like, “Oh, sorry about getting cut by Tulsa.” But I love Tulsa. I thought the people were great and really kind. I get 50 hugs when I go back. The staff is awesome. That program is continuing to build and it takes time in this league. Just because you have one or two No. 1 or No. 2 picks, that doesn’t translate into success. It takes time just like Seattle built it here. But anyway, I’ve had a great run and I’ve met a lot of great people.
Q: How did you feel about this season?
Powell: This league is so challenging. Every team wants to win a championship. Every team wants to make the playoffs. There are a lot of teams that are disappointed and we’re one of those teams. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for this franchise to make some changes and go in the direction — whatever their plan is in terms of the changes in leadership. I don’t know any of that. But it’s an opportunity. The fans have been very fortunate to have such a wonderful team and the team has been very fortunate to have such wonderful fans. It’s really that big picture. From the outside looking in, I was just here this season, but it was a crazy one. They (fans/organization) decided they were going to embrace it and go through these challenges together. Everyone wants to win. But it’s who you are during these times that’s going to be who you are going forward. I have great faith in this organization. Whether I’m part of that or not, I’m excited for this team and the next few years. I think it’s going to be great here.