The Washington Mystics flew to the Twin Cities Thursday afternoon. But it will be a short-handed group that will come to Xcel Energy Center for Friday’s game with the Lynx.
Washington head coach Mike Thibault and his son – and Mystics assistant – Eric Thibault will miss the game to attend the death of Mike’s father -- and Eric's grandfather -- Frank.
There are connections between Mike Thibault and the Lynx. Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve and the Mystics head coach are good friends, and have been in contact. Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen began her career playing for Thibault in Connecticut.
“I messaged with Mike, shared condolence with him,’’ Reeve said after Thursday’s practice. “When the time comes it’s never easy. It’s a tough thing to go through, and for the team to be without two staff members.’’
The Mystics will be coached by Marianna Stanley, whose long resume began as head coach of the Old Dominion women’s team in 1977. She has been a head coach in both college and the pros.
WNBA coaching staffs are limited in size, which means Stanley will likely be the only coach on the bench for the Mystics tomorrow.
“I don’t know how many teams can say it has two legends on the bench,’’ Reeve said, referring to Thibault and Stanley. So it’s another legend stepping in. I told our players this, too. You pull together in times like these, too. So I’m sure the [Washington] players will take on a little bit more. We’re well aware of that.’’
"We're very sad for coach and his family,'' Washington guard Ivory Latta said on a WNBA conference call Thursday. "We're keeping them in our prayers. We have to have everybody do a little more. We have to stay focused and do the things we know how to do.''
-- The lynx have had the better part of a week to work out the kinks – and the frustrations – of last Sunday’s home loss to Connecticut at Xcel Energy Center.
Statistically, it was a rare loss. It was just the third time since 2011 that the Lynx have shot better than 50 percent and lost. Indeed, Minnesota is 68-3 in such games since 2011. Sunday the Lynx were also 7-for-16 on three-pointers.
So, clearly, atop the agenda for things to work on this week was defense. “We cleaned things up,’’ Reeve said of her team, which allowed the Sun to score 98 points on 55.4-percent shooting, both season highs by a Lynx opponent. “We had let things slip a bit,’’ Reeve said. “We plugged a few holes.’’
Last summer the Lynx set a league record by starting the season 13-0. But that was followed by a three-game losing streak. In 2012 the team started 10-0, lost, but won two straight. In 2014 a 7-0 start was followed by a stretch in which the Lynx lost two of three games.We'll see how the Lynx respond after their 9-0 start to this season ended with Sunday's loss.
--Both Reeve and Maya Moore applauded the WNBA’s decision to bring the three-point shooting contest back to the All-Star game, something that has been missing of late.
“It’s a no-brainer, right?” Reeve said. “We have some really good shooters in our league. It’s a fun thing. Especially if you look at the evolution of the league and how important the three-ball is.’’
The contest will take part at halftime of the July 22 game in Seattle.
“The three-ball is something the basketball world is fascinated with,’’ Moore said. “It should be a fun little addition to the weekend. I’m interested.’’