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S: How much contact do you have with the players during the offseason?

K: Typically we will email every so often to the players who are overseas, try to stay in touch with them, but not a lot. We are focused on preparing for the season. The coaches have a lot more correspondence with them during the offseason than I do. But that will certainly increase in January with a few players coming back early. They are going to get in shape, they are going to have some individual workouts with coaches and equally importantly they will be out in the community helping us to market our upcoming third season.

S: Do you know who those players might be?

K: We don’t know yet. We’ll probably know in the next week or so. Some of the players had originally planned to go overseas, but are interested in possibly staying back. Others are looking at job opportunities, internship opportunities, so we’re kind of juggling all of that right now. We can only have three at a time, but want to be able to allow any of them that are interested to come back at one point or another throughout that four or five months leading up to the season.

S: One of the things that a lot of fans have noticed is that for being a team that has been in last place or towards the bottom for the last couple of years, there hasn’t been any griping or finger pointing or complaining publicly. Everyone seems like they get along so well. It’s so different from what we’ve seen in other sports or other teams. What do you attribute that to?

K: Well, I think it’s the quality of the women that Coach Dunn drafted and brought to this organization, first and foremost. I appreciate the fact that the fans acknowledge that and they see that because that’s something that we as an organization appreciate. We know that there were frustrations this year. And I think that Lin has drafted some incredibly mature and professional adults who really respect one another and really appreciate the opportunity that they have to be a part of building something very unique and very special. And it’s a credit to the players.

S: Along that line, the players are really put forward as role models. It’s something that we hear a lot about. These women are professionals outside of the game of basketball, they are in the community and they are really touted as big time role models. Does that get in the way a little bit? Are the demands on the players too much or is this something they all get into?

K: I think knowing that the history of professional women’s sports in our country continues to be a struggle, that these women are willing to fight the fight. And they know that it means compromises personally and professionally. To help grow this league in such a way that we can ensure that the players that come after them have the same opportunities as they have. And they are very grateful. You know many of them have played overseas for many years. Many of them would not have the opportunity to continue a professional career if the WNBA wasn’t here, so they are willing to do whatever it takes to help make the league successful. They maintain very optimistic outlooks throughout the year despite a very demanding schedule.

S: That’s great.

K: We obviously walk a fine line working very closely with the coaching staff to make sure that any of the needs that we have on the PR side or community relations side aren’t drastically compromising their ability to perform as world class athletes because that’s really important too. But they continue to be our single most important marketing tool. And they appreciate having that opportunity. They are really passionate about the continued success of women’s professional sports and want to do whatever they can to insure its longevity.

S: I’ve got one question about Michelle Edwards. With her injury, she’s mentioned a couple of times that maybe she’s considering retirement. Have you spoken to her about that? Is she still kind of up in the air?

K: Yeah, we did talk to her about that. She’s going to go back to New York for rehab and then come back. She really just wants to keep an open mind about it. She wants to see how she feels, I think probably both emotionally and physically. And Michelle assured us that as she goes through her rehab and reflects on these last few years and starts to think about moving forward. She’ll definitely stay in touch with the coaching staff about how she’s feeling. Obviously, as we get closer to training camp we’ll stay in close contact with Michelle and get a sense of what she’s thinking about her future. She hasn’t made any decisions yet and isn’t anxious to.

S: I kind of asked this a little bit already. But one of the things that certainly attracted us to the game and is something that has been a big plus for the people who are going to all of the events is the amount of player contact that the fans have. When the Storm start averaging 15,000 a game, do you think you will be able to continue that much contact level and when we have a season ticket holder party at the end of the year, and you’ve got 10,000 season ticket holders, is that really going to be able to work?

K: Well, for starters, I don’t think we are going to grow our attendance in terms of season tickets holders. As I was alluding to earlier, that’s not where the growth in attendance is really going to come from for this product. I think we will continue to maintain a core of season ticket holders who will always be our most enthusiastic, most passionate, most vocal fans and that number will hover right around 3,000, maybe up to 4,000. And we will continue, as the in arena attendance grows with single game ticket buyers, to do everything that we can to grow the game experience with the number of fans that come without compromising that player/fan connection. We will always maintain that as its really important and that’s what makes the WNBA so special.

S: One of the things that’s kind of going on with the fans in Seattle are stirrings of some kind of organization. We’ve talked to a couple of your staff and they’ve mentioned that you are interested in or researching a possible booster club. What are your plans and what kind of things are you thinking about for that?

K: We’re researching it and it’s not something we’ve gotten to yet. We are aware of booster clubs that exist around the WNBA and we are in the process of getting information back from other teams about how they’ve structured those and at some point over the next couple of months we’ll take a look at that and make some decisions. We obviously want to do everything we can to enhance to relationship that we have with our core fans. We want to make sure that we continue to reinforce our fans’ commitment to our organization and also balance that with other marketing efforts that we have. So, we just haven’t had a chance to take a look at it, but we definitely will. If we ultimately decide not to officially launch some kind of fan club, we certainly encourage our fans to take it upon themselves to do that.

S: That’s kind of already happening. We had a short meeting before the last game with a few people and Susie was there. And we were all talking about having viewing parties, going on road trips together, sitting in the same section and doing a lot of that kind of thing already. So…

K: I think that’s great.

S: I think that the one thing we don’t want to do is really duplicate any efforts that the organization may be wanting to do.

K: Once we have a chance to gather more information and figure out that would fit in to everything else we are doing. We would have a discussion with fans, such as yourselves, and folks who would be most likely to spearhead that kind of an effort and make sure that we are not duplicating it. My guess is what we would probably opt to do is allow our fans to take some ownership and then we would support it in whatever way we could to enhance the value you are delivering.

S: The last thing about that is that there’s kind of a mega-fan organization brewing with fans from all different teams. We’ve been in contact with several other people from other cities, especially Sacramento for some reason, maybe because they’ve been coming up here a lot for games, but a lot of fans from a lot of teams are getting together and wanting to, when they come to your city go out to dinner or whatever, and again that just seems to be very different than what I’ve seen in other sports.

K: That’s great. I’m glad. Something similar happened in the ABL. And I’m glad to see that in just two short years time Storm fans and other WNBA fans are starting to develop relationships between themselves. I think that’s great because that can only build the passion, excitement, camaraderie and also the rivalry between other teams around the league and I think that’s great. I think the more involved our fans get, the more engaged they get, bodes well for the future of the product. It’s that kind of passion and energy that will eventually catch fire and grab the attention of folks who haven’t already come into the building because they want to know what’s going on and what this is all about. And that’s how we grow the fan base and that’s how we get people excited about WNBA basketball.

S: Oh yeah. And that’s one of the things that Angie and I have been trying to…

K: I mean, it’s become a lifestyle for you guys. (Note: It’s a bad sign when the Storm’s VP for Operations recognizes that your fandom has become a “lifestyle” - Scott)

S: Well, it is. One of the things that we didn’t anticipate with doing the web site is how many people we’ve met. And not just in Seattle, but all over the world.

K: Absolutely.

S: It’s been great. One of the things about the new ownership – looking at sports owners, the one guy that comes to mind is Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, just because he is Mr. Vocal and very visible. But he does a lot of things that are kind of pretty cool too in addition to being an opinionated nugget sometimes [Karen laughs]. It’s been kind of reassuring for us to see Howard Schultz at the Storm games, and not just sitting there but he’s gotten up off his seat and yelling at the refs a couple of times. What kind of WNBA owner is Howard Schultz going to be?

K: He’s very supportive. That’s the word that really comes to mind. He’s definitely going to support me and Lin and the rest of our organization and help in whatever way he can to see that we achieve our goals. And that’s really all that I can ask for is an owner that is bringing his expertise, his love of the game and just his support of the product. He strongly believes in what the WNBA is all about. He has enjoyed getting to know the players and learning more about some the challenges that we have in the league and he’s really just excited to help. He really felt that by the time the new ownership group was in place that we were so far down the road planning wise that there wasn’t much impact that he could have. But even the short amount of time, he did have an impact, by just supporting us. And just showing himself as an owner and that he cared about this product. Taking the time to get to know our players. That really meant a lot to them. He’s going to be even more impactful in this third year because he is going to be involved very early on as we plan and strategize on how we are going to be more successful.

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