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Archive for June 2, 2007

June 2, 2007 — Looking to rebound … literally

Yesterday, the Washington Mystics fired head coach Richie Adubato and replaced him with Wayne “Tree” Rollins on an interim basis. And given the WNBA franchise’s consistent lack of size and rebounding over the years, it was the perfect move.

Since the Mystics entered the league as an expansion franchise in 1998, it has not lacked for fan support, once topping out at more than 18,000 fans per game that first season.

The Mystics have been a good show over the years: the pregame introduction is by far the best show in town, with pyrotechnics, thumping music, and that costumed bunny mascot breakdancing on the Verizon Center pine.

But the weird thing is that the Mystics have only finished above .500 twice. One reason, despite having several Olympic-caliber players, is rebounding.

I’ve never seen any Mystic be a monster rebounder on the level of a Charles Barkley, a Dennis Rodman, or even a Fat Lever. The lack of board strength has come up on more than one occasion.

In 2001, when former Australia head coach Tom Maher was brought in to bring his free-wheeling brand of ball, he asked a few of his players to be more fit and lose some weight. That had an immediate effect on the team’s ability to rebound.

Three years later, I noted during a post-game press conference featuring Marianne Stanley, that the opposition had badly outrebounded the Mystics. Stanley, who had gained fame as an Immaculata Mighty Mac in the 1970s, looked daggers at me. “Is there a question there?”

Apparently, that question remained in 2007. In the team’s third game of the season, the Sacramento Monarchs got 50 rebounds to the Mystics’ 22. The offensive rebound count: 25 to 5.

Even in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, that is unheard of.

Rollins, who stands over 7 feet tall, is likely to spend his first few days with the club working on rebounding. See, it is possible, through technique, for a smaller player (i.e., the typical Mystic) to get a rebound from the much taller and bigger Rollins. Heck, I remember my old high school basketball coach Staz showing me how to spread my arms, sit on an opponent’s quad muscle, and get the rebound since my opponent couldn’t jump with me sitting on his knee.

It’s one of those little techniques that is often lost on today’s Playstation-addicted basketball players. It deserves a revival.