WNBA President Laurel Richie was the Mohegan Sun Arena Wednesday night to help the Connecticut Sun celebrate its 10th anniversary and give Tina Charles the “Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award” during halftime ceremonies.
Hey, no big surprise. She knows Kelley Hardwick, the NBA senior security manager who has sued Geno Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball for employment discrimination. That’s because Hardwick is the one who must worry about Richie’s well-being when she travels around the nation on league business.
Hey, no big surprise, Part II: Richie, in as nice a way one can say no, said she wasn’t interested in talking about the situation before the Sun game against Los Angeles.
“I have worked with her [Hardwick] in the year I have been in the league,” Richie said. “It is no surprise to any of you that I am aware of the lawsuit. But I would respectfully decline to go too far into that line of questioning. I’m sure you can appreciate that.”
Sure, it’s not like I haven’t heard that before.
Richie is now in her second year as boss after taking over for Donna Orender.
“I’m really proud to have completed my rookie season, and I’ve felt incredible support from my partners and team.” Ritchie said. “This is not rocket science. The goals are added attendance, increased viewership and building strong partnerships. I think we are doing some pretty good work. This is the first season in our relationship with Boost Mobile, beginning with its participation as the presenting sponsor of our [player draft], performance awards, etc.
“We’re entering partnerships, formal and informal, with other organizations like AAU, Organization of 100 Black Men and Girls Scouts, those who share our vision about the importance of athletics and female role models.
“When you look at the landscape of professional sports, we are very proud that the league is entering its 16th season. What I have learned is, there is no one way to do this [operate a successful team]. We have successful affiliated teams [with NBA franchises] and successful independent teams, like Connecticut. It’s all about understanding the market in which you compete. The Sun has done a great job “leveraging” the things they have in their favor in this market.”
Connecticut, Minnesota and San Antonio are now making a profit.
“We haven’t set an end date for all of the teams to do that,” Richie said. “Now that we have three teams [making money] the rest are thinking we want to be next. It’s all the blocking and tackling that comes with understanding your fan base.”
The biggest complaint the coaches in the league continue to have is the size of their rosters, which was trimmed back a few years ago from 12 to 11.
“We are in constant discussion about the roster size and my guess is they will continue,” Richie said. “There is a balance between wanting to do all we can to make sure we are putting the best game on the floor and make sure our players are healthy [by not forcing them to play and practice injured]. But we are also cognizant the league is a business. The discussions will continue at Board of Governors meetings with the Competition Committee and in almost every venue where we have conversation. But at this time, we do not have plans to change it.”
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