The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. The Atlanta Dream are far from insane. They have replaced their entire coaching staff and general manager. Owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler made the bold move of releasing former head coach Michael Cooper. Cooper was 63-73 overall during his four years and successfully took the team to two WNBA playoffs. He was originally brought in to get the team over the hump and win a championship. That championship has eluded them and so began the process of changing.
Making changes starts at the top and that’s what team President Theresa Wenzel did. She brought in General Manger Chris Sienko. He is the former Vice President and General Manager of the Connecticut Sun. Sienko obviously has seen it all during his 14 years in the WNBA. He has spent all of those years with the Sun once they moved from Orlando. They have been in the playoffs eight times. They were in back to back WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005, falling short to Seattle and Sacramento respectively. They were the first profitable team in the WNBA in 2007 and have maintained that ever since. It goes without saying that having a coach that you have worked with makes for an easier transition.
That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when the dream hired Nicki Collen as their new head coach. If things don’t go well in Atlanta, we can blame Connecticut. LOL. She just finished her second season as an assistant coach with the Connecticut Sun. The first season, the team was 14-20 overall. This past season they were 21-13, which was good enough for the fourth-best record in the league and a playoff berth. Collen’s coaching experience started as an assistant coach at Florida Gulf Coast College. The Eagles had back to back 30-win seasons starting in 2014. That team had a 26-game winning streak and the first ever NCAA Tournament victory over a 10th- seeded Oklahoma State. The 2015 team was 33-6 and came up just short of a NIT Championship. Collen said, “I am humbled at the opportunity to become the next Head Coach of the Atlanta Dream and incredibly proud to be associated with a league that empowers women in such a positive way. I want to thank owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler, as well as team President Theresa Wenzel for believing in me and what we can accomplish together. I was blown away by their passion and commitment to the Dream and to the city of Atlanta”.
Collen’s first order of business, besides getting use to eating at a Waffle House, was hiring her assistant coaches. The first assistant coach would be Mike Petersen. He was a former head coach at North Texas, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, New Mexico State and TCU. He has compiled an impressive 300 career wins at those programs. He recently served as an advanced scout for the New Orleans Pelicans. Petersen was also a pretty good player in college. Petersen said, “I am delighted and excited to have the opportunity to join Nicki’s staff. I look forward to the chance to work for Nicki and with the talented players in the Atlanta Dream organization and help to build a championship team in Atlanta. I would like to thank Coach Collen, Chris Sienko and Theresa Wenzel for their invitation to join the Atlanta Dream family.”
Last, but not least, Darius Taylor was added as an assistant coach. The former South Carolina assistant coach is fresh off a Women’s NCAA National Championship. In his five years under the tutelage of Dawn Staley, he helped the Gamecocks improve into becoming a powerhouse in the SEC. Before he was in Carolina, he spent two years with the NBADL, promoting personal, professional and social development in the league’s players. “I am extremely excited to join the Atlanta Dream organization and to be back coaching basketball at an elite level,” Taylor said. “I look forward to the opportunity and the challenge of helping build the Dream into a championship contender. The Atlanta Dream is a world class organization ran by great owners and leadership. I would like to thank Coach Nicki Collen and the rest of the organization for showing confidence in my abilities and look forward to working under her tutelage.”
The Dream’s roster is in great shape for the upcoming season. They have three, count them, three WNBA All-Stars returning in Layshia Clarendon, Tiffany Hayes and Elizabeth Williams. It was the first time each of them were All-Stars, with Hayes being a starter. The Dream also has a member of the WNBA All-Rookie team in Brittney Sykes returning. She can only get better and learn from a fantastic first year. You add those pieces with the possible return of Angel McCoughtry, then you are looking at one special team. Let’s see if the Dream can keep their sanity all the way to the Finals.