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Hargrove: "I definitely didn't feel secure"

I reached Linda Hargrove and was able to get her take on her firing along with some other hot topics from the past season.

Mystics President and Managing Partner Sheila Johnson and Chief Operating Officer Greg Bibb met with Hargrove on Friday to tell her she was being fired because the team was moving in a different direction. She said it seems like more change is forthcoming, but that she hasn't been involved in the team's conversations about the future.

Hargrove said she wasn't overly surprised with the team's decision, considering Johnson's comments in August.

"I definitely didn't feel secure," Hargrove said. "[Johnson] and I had always had a pretty open level of communication so when I saw her comments in the paper I was definitely surprised. I didn't know she felt that way about the team, about our talent level. Any time your boss questions everything you do in a public way you start to wonder what's going to happen next."

The Mystics admittedly were not without their share of uncontrollable problems, whether injuries or players wanting to leave or not being available to stay (ie Nikki Teasley's pregnancy) but Hargrove said the toughest part of her four-year tenure was the constant rotation of people through the front office.

"A hard thing about Washington has been that in my time as general manager we had two ownership groups, three COOs and four coaches," she said. "Trying to satisfy all those different entities has been a juggling act and it was always a struggle. But I'm a general manager who was a former coach so I've always thought that I've been very sensitive to what the coach believed we needed to succeed and I tried to do my best to accommodate that."

Hargrove also said the team was aware of the repercussions on the 2008 season when it sent Taj McWilliams-Franklin to Detroit for Tasha Humphrey, Shay Murphy and a second round draft pick during the Olympic break when the Mystics were still just two games out of the playoffs.

"This year we weren't what we were at the end of last year, but when the trade was made we knew that hurt our chances of being successful," Hargrove said. "We didn't think we were necessarily going to go 8-0 no matter what [after the break]. We knew the trade would improve Detroit and ultimately hurt us, but that decision was one that management agreed on."

She's going to take some time off but said she would like to spend more time in professional basketball. "Some people have already been in contact with me and I think there are some people in professional women's basketball who think I have a lot of expertise in it," Hargrove said. "I'm a little sorry things ended the way they did but I know professional sports aren't a stable business.

"My first venture into it after college the league folded (referencing her time with Colorado in the ABL), then my team folded (Portland) then three months after I'm GM in Washington the team gets sold. Changes happen, it's part of the business."

By Katie Carrera  |  September 24, 2008; 12:07 AM ET
 
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Comments

Can someone explain some things to me? Between this article and Mechelle Voepel's blog on ESPN.com, I'm confused about who does what.

*Who makes the decisions about player trades, signing, etc.?

*Who hires the head coach?

*How hands-on has Sheila Johnson been in the day-to-day operations of the team?

*What does Greg Bibb do?

*Has there ever been a long-term plan in place?

I'm sure Linda Hargrove is a really great person who knows a lot about basketball. But she was GM for four years. Is it not reasonable to expect some sort of success in that time frame?

I'm getting the impression that there are those who think the fans are placing too much blame on Hargrove. If that's true, then who is responsible for the Mystics' lack of success?

I probably sound a little testy, and I am, because the story about what's wrong with the Mystics is like John McCain's position on the economy: it seems to change a little every day. But I really want to understand what's going on with the Mystics and who is responsible for what.

Posted by: Kande | September 24, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

kande said: "I'm sure Linda Hargrove is a really great person who knows a lot about basketball. But she was GM for four years. Is it not reasonable to expect some sort of success in that time frame?"
*******
Yes, she is a really great person; and Yes, it is totally reasonable to expect some success or improvement over a 4-year span.

If you saw Mechelle Voepel's blog on ESPN.com, then you read her conclusion that a team with bad luck, bad decision-making and a revolving door of coaches and front office changes is, in a word, DOOMED!

The solution? First a plan! Then implementation of the plan, even if it takes a couple of years for the plan to bear fruit. I suspect that for any plan to have a chance to succeed, there may need to be wholesale personnel changes (roster-wise). The fans, free agents and veteran players around the league have to be convinced that the Mystics make-over is serious...this time! The franchise cannot afford to fail again.

Posted by: Eileen | September 24, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

kande, great post except for your political opinion --- take your politics to the daily kos where they belong!

Posted by: bestmick | September 24, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Eileen, I don't disagree with what you're saying. Like with any business, though, shouldn't there have been a plan in place? It was a bit of a shock to learn there apparently wasn't one. Who should have developed that plan?

Really, though, my questions are quite basic and because I want to understand who does what. What does the GM do? What does Greg Bibb do? What other people/positions are involved in putting a team on the floor, and what are they responsible for?

Posted by: Kande | September 25, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

While there were certainly some circumstances beyond her control, it seems to me that Linda has an excuse for everything! It's never her fault, is it? I, for one, am glad the organization finally gave her a set of walking papers. This is the first step of the comprehensive housecleaning process that needs to take place this offseason.

Posted by: Disgusted | September 25, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Temeka Johnson's looking good these days, isn't she? Too bad the Mystics couldn't find a point like that.

Oh, wait...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Kande said: "Like with any business, though, shouldn't there have been a plan in place? It was a bit of a shock to learn there apparently wasn't one. Who should have developed that plan?"
*******
I too was shocked by Dr J's revelation that they were working without a "plan"! The owner and GM should definitely have had one IMO. That's who I feel bears the responsibility.

And another pet peeve of mine: It's frustrating to keep hearing about how now that the "business-side" of things is working well that they're turning their attention to the team. Uhmmm, am I the only person who thinks this is ass-backwards??? Shouldn't that have been the first priority all along? My attitude towards all the great "business news" is that I don't want to hear about it. After paying a lot of money for a terrible product, it doesn't make ME feel any better to know that the front office staff earned year-end bonuses (or whatever). Fiddling while Rome is burning?

Posted by: Eileen | September 26, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

If the "business" side doesn't work, then you can forget about everything else because there will be no team. Good for Johnson for making that a priority. Now, let's hope she can do the same for the "team" side.

Posted by: Sophie | September 26, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Sophie, I don't think dealing with the "business" side and dealing with the "product on the floor" side are mutually exclusive. Both can and should have been addressed. The very thought that the owners had no plan for the team pisses me off as someone who has spent a ton of money and devoted a lot of time to this franchise. Quite frankly, I feel a little ripped off.

I agree with the earlier poster. I am pretty ticked at the constant drumbeat over the past month about what a great year the franchise had from a "business" standpoint, at the same time the team was turning in one of the worst seasons ever. Maybe since Dr J had no plan for the team but had such a great year on the "business" side, she ought to issue a percentage refund to the STHs.

Posted by: Original Fan | September 26, 2008 8:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm just amazed that someone who has been as successful in business as Ms. Johnson has operated without a long-term plan at all. A "plan" is a basic element of operating a business, and one so basic that most banks won't lend to you unless you show them one (not that she needed a loan because the team belongs to the holding company, not her).

I think what she means about getting the business side up and running, though, is that she is just now getting the right people in place in the front office. She has admitted putting "friends" who knew nothing about professional sports into key positions. She's now changed that, so she's getting her arms around it. But, I agree, Original Fan, the "team" aspect of the business is integral to the rest of it, so she now has to prove she can handle the rest.

Posted by: devoshka | September 27, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Let's remember that after Pollin cut the Mystics loose, their WAS no "business side." The team had been mediocre for the last few years, playing at or near .500 ball. If Dr. Johnson was buying into Hargrove's line, she might well have believed the "game" side was heading in the right direction. That would help explain both her emphasis on the "business side," and her shock and chagrin when the team collapsed this year.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

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