JUST ANOTHER DAY ON CENTER STAGE
The Connecticut basketball events of yesterday came with an interesting wrinkle and a surprise or two. It was no real surprise that the American Athletic Conference selected Hartford for it’s 2015 men’s basketball tournament, and no surprise the announcement came one week after the dual UCONN national championships. Strike while the iron is hot.
The wrinkle. Last month in Memphis commissioner Mike Aresco expressed his pleasure with that city as the host and raised an eyebrow or two by suggesting they might be in Memphis again next year. Yesterday he again expressed that Memphis had done a great job, but the timing, the two championships, and the terms of the XL Center bid, made the stars align for Hartford, the announcement coming when it’s already common knowledge, even acknowledged by Aresco, that a two year deal is almost in place for Orlando for the ensuing two years.
On WTIC Sportstalk last night he indicated there was no telling when they might get another chance to bring the event to Hartford. Reading between the lines of a one year deal in Hartford and a two year deal in Orlando already on it’s heels might lead one to believe that Connecticut may not be part of the AAC beyond next season.
There was no surprise when the first pick was announced at the WNBA draft last night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The home team, the Connecticut Sun, had the first overall pick and at lunch last November head coach Anne Donovan made it clear that Stanford forward Chiney Oguamike was at the top of her list and unless things changed drastically she would stay there. Things didn’t change drastically and, as expected, Chiney was the pick.
There wasn’t even much surprise when word circulated prior to the draft that the Sun was about to trade former UCONN star and 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles to the New York Liberty, her hometown team. It was well known to anyone who covered the team last season that Tina wasn’t happy here and her attitude in the locker room had become toxic. Even the details of the trade weren’t much of a surprise. It was understood Charles would command a hefty return, and she did, the Sun getting second year forward and first round pick Kelsey Bone, the fourth pick last night, which became Maryland Forward Alyssa Thomas, and a first round pick next year.
The suprise came later, when GM Chris Sienko addressed the media. “(Tina) said she wanted a change of scenery last year”, said Sienko, “But when we visited her it was all about, ‘I want to win’, so we put together the pieces that she wanted and that we thought were important to us. We didn’t change our team because of Tina, we made changes that were important to our team.”
Then Sienko dropped the bomb, “After that her agent said Tina just wanted to go home, it’s not about winning. When I asked what happened to the winning part of the equation she said she was willing to forego winning for a few years to be back in New York.”
The translation was clear. Sienko said Charles had issued an ultimatum to be traded to the Liberty, that one way or the other she would not play for the Sun this summer. The Sun not only got a more than fair return for Charles, they added by subtracting. The attitude in the locker room this season will be much more conducive to winning and Sun fans, who endured a long season last year will be in for one more surprise, the pleasant one they’ll get when Anne Donovan gets to coach the Connecticut Sun, the job she signed on for, but didn’t get to do last year.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.