As the losses mount for the Los Angeles Sparks (7-12), fan frustration continues to grow. Solutions to the problems of this season, and the past two, are also being hotly debated.
Three fans who posted on the members-only Sparks fans message board last week agreed to be quoted. Their proposed solutions range from radical to more traditional.
Wendy Watson is a season ticket holder and has attended games for the last seven years. She is considering not renewing her tickets next year, and says change should start at the top, with General Manager Penny Toler.
We’re not going to get anywhere until we can find a person who makes good decisions for the team,” Watson said. “I’m saying it’s not the players or coaches. Let’s start with the GM.”
“I’m sick of all the losing. It’s not the players. When players LEAVE they wind up winning championships with other teams. What does that say? We need managers who can pick good coaches and be proactive. We’ve tried changing coaches, too, to no avail. It’s time to cut the GM.”
Aida Diaz is a Sparks founding season ticket holder from 1997 to the present. She has held fan game watching events in her home, participated in team-sponsored road trips, sold season tickets to friends, donated tickets to youth groups, and has participated in virtually all season ticket holder and MVP events. Diaz is also one of the most outspoken members of the Sparks fans group, and refuses to stop supporting the team because of the committment she feels toward them, and to supporting women’s basketball. Her solution is two-fold: trade Candace Parker, and get a new General Manager.
“I know this will be unpopular, but I think it’s time to trade Candace Parker,” Diaz said. “One good season from her. Now we are paying her to heal so she can go overseas and tire herself out, making her susceptible to injury when she returns. Can anyone say Mwadi? Candace does us no good on the injured list. We need players on the floor. Not only does it tire our vets out more, but it doesn’t help with chemistry and rotations.”
“Penny is not a good judge of talent and ability to be a successful player. She would select local players, I’m thinking to bring in fans. But they did not pan out. She misses on her picks for coaches and players unless it’s a gimme like Candace. I see other teams with talent to win now and players to develop for the future, then I see our team with players who are not going to last. We need a GM with the ability and respect to bring in talented players and a coach to lead them and earn their respect.”
Diaz added that the Sparks have “lost their grassroots feel.”
“I understand it is a business, but as a fan I have never felt as alienated as I do this season,” Diaz said. “No season ticket holder events, no meet and greets – new owner, less accessibility. Add to that no tweets from Kathy Goodman – was she asked to stop??”
Barbara Muirhead, an eight-year season ticket holder, agrees that changes need to be made, but looks at it more as a coaching issue.
“I’m as frustrated as the rest of you, but dumping Candace with nothing to replace her won’t solve the problem,” Muirhead said. “There is no one in next year’s draft that could replace her. If we don’t get a full year out of her next year, I’ll go along with letting her go, but coaching definitely needs to be looked at. As far as Penny goes as a GM, she might not be Ann Meyers, but there are several out there that are far worse.”
Muirhead said that the Sparks should be doing better with the second-best bench in the league. And although Coach Joe Bryant’s substitutions have been better than most, he “seems to lack the ability to inspire team and build the internal bondimg that’s needed.”
“Coaching women is not easy and the current coach may not even know how to approach this problem,” Muirhead said. “We need a coach who has worked with women, whether it is a man or a woman. Some women respond better to men and some to women, so it’s really a matter of how they deal with the team interactions.
“It’s no use looking at the past, as most of the players that the Sparks let go, haven’t really come back to haunt us or would they be of any use this year. We look good on paper, but we don’t look inspired or hungry on the floor. So, it seems to be a matter of handling and inspiring.”
So what will happen with the Sparks this year???