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I recently had the opportunity to speak with Storm General Manager and Head Coach Lin Dunn over the phone for about 50 minutes. Below is a transcript of our conversation. I want to thank Lin for taking the time during her vacation for this interview and for answering these questions – Scott

Scott: How does being both the GM and Head Coach make each job easier and how does it make each job harder?

Coach Dunn: Well, first of all, let me clarify what the term GM means with a WNBA team in particular, with the Seattle Storm. The term General Manager refers to the person that is in charge of player personnel. That basically means that I am in charge of all personnel decisions: the draft, trades, waivers, anything that relates to the actual make up of the team. I think some people assume that a General Manager means you are on the business side with the budget and all that type of stuff. In this situation, I’m not. It strictly means I’m in charge of the personnel situation.

S: Okay.

C: From my perspective, I like that. It’s a real positive because it helps me be able to make decisions based on the type of players that I would like to coach.

S: One of the things that I talked to Karen Bryant a little bit about was that the team doesn’t actually own the contracts of the players – the league does.

C: Correct.

S: So the decisions about signing and waiving players have to go through the league? For instance, when you signed on Michelle Marciniak and put Katrina Hibbert on waivers and then cut her was that something that had to go through the league on? Or were you able to…

C: Right. Every player personnel move whether big, medium or small, all goes through the league because the league, I guess you could say, technically owns the players. So any moves we make – a draft, a trade, a waiver, anything, picking up somebody off the waiver wire – it goes through the league and they have to approve all trades. The league has to approve everything.

S: Has that ever gotten in the way of a move you wanted to do?

C: I don’t think it’s gotten in the way. I think one of the purposes of this is for the league to monitor a situation where two or more teams may be trying to pick up the same player. In particular with players that are waived so then they have to make a decision as far as to who would have first choice to that player.

S: I see.

C: They also are doing it, I think, so that there is some semblance of order and control. You know, since it’s not a bidding war like the men have with money. There’s money involved so they have to basically coordinate those activities. And I think there’s some positives to that.

S: I know you are on vacation right now, but how soon will you start scouting players, watching tape and all that kind of thing in preparation for next season?

C: Well, it’s funny we use the term vacation, because I am in Tennessee visiting my mother and I am spending less time dealing with my job responsibilities but not a day goes by that I don’t do something that relates to the Seattle Storm. I keep up with my emails. I phone my office everyday to find out what’s going on. I actually had a phone call yesterday from a free agent that was interested in us coming to her workout or her coming out to Seattle for me to watch her workout to see if maybe she could play for us. And so I interacted with her agent and then subsequently called her. It never really stops; but this is a downtime for me. I’m going to be here until about the end of September then come back to Seattle and then we’re going to focus as a staff this fall on some trades. We’ll be talking about some possible trades, coming up for the next couple of weeks and months. I think once we all understand exactly where we stand in the lottery and with the draft, I think you’ll start to see some possible trades. I don’t think you’ll see any trades until we have the lottery and everybody knows what draft pick they have. But we are definitely at this particular time, as a staff communicating via email. We’re working on individual workouts for the players in the off season, following where they are right now and what they are doing in the off season. Some of them are in Europe, some of them are staying over here. And then we are getting ready for a clinic that we are going to have September , I think, 14, 15, 16th. Missy and Gary are hosting a coaching clinic so they are working on that. And then we are talking basically about personnel moves that we might consider for the future, deciding which players from this past year that we will definitely keep as our core players and which players we may or may not keep. So we are constantly talking about personnel moves right now. Re-evaluating the season, the pluses, the minuses, the good, the bad and the ugly.

S: Do you have suggested workouts for the players in the off season? If they are on their own or are playing for somebody else, do you have things that you have asked them to work on? Do you monitor their workouts during the summer?

C: It’s very challenging to monitor somebody’s workout when they are overseas or somewhere else in the United States. But when the players left Seattle, we did provide an off season strength and conditioning program that they took with them. We also had exit meetings where we talked about the season as a whole and I indicated to all of the players that I wanted them to take some time off and rest and then by the middle of September we would email them an off season individual workout for them to work on their strengths and things that they need to work on for next year. And we’re in the process of, as a staff, finishing those workouts and we will email them to them around the middle of this month. So then they will have a plan of things that they need to work on to improve for the next season. Obviously, it’s something that we will keep in touch with them and ask them how they are doing, but there is really no way we can supervise them because we are not there. Now hopefully after Christmas, we have some players coming into Seattle early and we will actually be able to have them over to our facility and work them out ourselves. That’s our plan.

S: Along those lines – we’ve all heard about, especially during the playoffs, Lisa Leslie and what she’s done this year and that she, along with other major players like Tina Thompson, don’t play internationally during the WNBA off season. Lisa especially has talked a lot about how she worked the whole off season on different aspects of her game. Do you think that those players that have the ability to do this have an advantage over the players who are playing full-time, all year-round and are coming back to the WNBA fatigued?

C: I don’t think there is any doubt that the players that make enough money – and Lisa is a perfect example, she makes an enormous salary with the WNBA – I don’t think she sees the necessity of going overseas and supplementing her income. I think the players that stay here and workout – when I say workout I mean really workout, five and six hours a day, strength and conditioning, working on their individual skills, shooting, playing one on one with guys, really workout seriously in the off season – are the ones who get better. There’s not any doubt about it. I think that’s exactly what you’ve seen happen to Lisa Leslie. Once she committed to really working in the off season, she totally improved herself. She’s bigger, she’s stronger, she’s faster, she can put the ball on the floor. You can see all the things that she’s done. Players get better in the off season. Teams get better during the season. Players, if they really want to improve their game, if they really want to be better, it’s what they do between now and the day training camp is over.

S: For those players that are playing overseas, is improving their own game something they are less able to do because they are in another coaches’ system?

C: Well, I think when you go overseas, and most of the players that do go overseas go over to primarily supplement their income. I mean, it’s a way to generate more revenue, more income. Now, it depends on where they go. Some players go into programs that are extremely well supervised and they are afforded the opportunity to lift weights and to really develop and some don’t. You know, I personally believe that a player that is supervised by one of their assistant coaches or their head coach and their strength and conditioning coach in their own facility four, five, six hours a day, five times a week, has a potential to develop better than someone that’s overseas.

S: Do you get a chance during the off season to travel internationally to either watch or be in contact with our players or to scout and take a look at other international players?

C: Well, last year I traveled to the Olympics and I went to Sydney, Australia and that’s where I saw a lot of the top international players. This fall, Gary, who has been hired as a full-time assistant now, one of his responsibilities will be to assist me with the talent evaluation, as well as helping me keep in contact with our current players. He will be going to Europe this fall. He’ll do a clinic over there with his father but then he’s also going to stay over there a little bit longer and look at some of the foreign players and hopefully be able to connect with our players that are over there while they’re there. And then hopefully by the end of, I don’t know, either December or January, I plan to go to Australia to look at their junior players as well as to check on Lauren and see how her shoulder is coming.

S: Have you heard anything about how her surgery went?

C: Well, I talked to her after the surgery. She was a little sore but there weren’t any complications and so it’s done. She’s gotten it done and that’s the good news and she seemed very, very positive about the fact that she’d had it done and now she is starting her rehab. I’m going to go over there and check on her and also look at the juniors over there. So, This will be the first time that we’ve had myself and Gary both out internationally, and then of course we’ll both be looking at the college players, too.

S: So, just like on the business side where they now have a serious permanent staff working the whole off season, you’re getting some help on the coaching side.

C: Right, and it is a very exciting time for us because I feel like the new ownership has made a very nice commitment to this team and I think we are seeing this with the commitment in the off season for me to bring Gary on full-time. Early in the spring or right after Christmas I plan to hire a second assistant that will help us with scouting, with talent evaluation and it will give us the opportunity to have three people to evaluate our returning players, help me evaluate possible trades and also help me evaluate the new players that are coming into the draft.

S: For the last two seasons, you’ve really been the center of the Storm’s marketing image and message. It’s been your face on all the billboards from the get go with the dribbling around town, all the way up to the bobblehead You said recently that it’s time for some players to take that role from you. How has being the center of attention in the marketing affected your time and your position?

C: Well, I don’t think it’s really affected my time and position. I think it’s been something that I knew early on that was a responsibility that I needed to take on because we were building from scratch. At first, we had no players. Now that we kind of have a good idea about who are core players are, it’s time for them to become the face of this team and me to sit back and let the players really get out and connect with the community and let them be the focal point of this team. I’ve enjoyed being in a situation where I could reach out and connect with the fans and the community and try to help to sell tickets and promote and market, but I also think it’s time now for us to slide some of that responsibility over to our players and then I can focus all of my efforts and energies and time on building this franchise with the help of my assistants.

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