All Olympic seasons are strange and a bit jarring for WNBA teams, but no team has ever experienced more drama in an Olympic season than the Atlanta Dream in 2012. This season has included the firing of first ever coach/general manager Marynell Meadors, half a season without center Erika de Souza (training for Olympics), a non-injury related hiatus of Angel McCoughtry and a lackluster start that had the Dream barely treading above .500 into late August.
Nevertheless, just like in 2011, the Dream turned the intensity around late in the season when it mattered most. Now they go into the playoffs with the momentum behind them enjoying a blistering 6-2 September. The following are my top three wake-up calls that the Dream had to endure before turning their eyes towards the WNBA's top prize:
3. 84-74 loss to the Minnesota Lynx on August 25, 2012. This was the last game with Marynell Meadors at the helms, and it was yet another game where Angel McCoughtry was reluctant to suit up for unknown reasons. Fans, players, the owners and even Coach Meadors didn't seem to be real certain what was going on with McCoughtry. Meadors gave a vague, flustered reply to reporters asking about a potential injury, saying, "She played the game tonight. I guess she is (healthy). She wouldn't be in the game if she was not, OK? All I can say is she played tonight." The ownership realized that this fluid situation couldn't continue if the Dream had intentions on going all the way this season.
2. Atlanta Dream ownership fire head coach/GM Marynell Meadors on August 27, 2012. Clearly this was the darkest point in the season. Marynell Meadors, the architect who transformed an expansion team that suffered a humiliating 4-30 record in 2008 into an annual playoff contender was no longer running the show. The ownership suffered a lot of flak for the move supposedly giving into the disgruntled McCoughtry. However, the fact was that Meadors did not have a handle on the situation, nor had her track record with the team been good when it came to handling disciplinary issues, particularly with McCoughtry. New head coach/GM Fred Williams's first order of business in his new position was to delve out McCoughtry's first ever suspension and strip her of her captain's status.
1. 84-80 loss to worst team in the league Tulsa Shock on August 28, 2012.
This was Fred Williams's first game at his new position. McCoughtry had just been given an indefinite suspension and the dust was still in the process of settling after all the rapid changes that had been taking place. Fred Williams wasn't certain if McCoughtry would be back in 2012 indicating he was going to talk to her about all the events that took place: "I have to thoroughly and strongly talk to her. We'll see where that lies tomorrow." After this embarrassing loss I think Williams had no grand illusions that his team was going to go all the way without McCoughtry. Certainly giving the league's worst team their first road win of the year changed Williams's role from disciplinarian to negotiator to get the league's top scorer back on board for 2012. McCoughtry (2012 scoring champion) and the Dream (fourth straight playoff appearance) haven't looked back since.
As a resident of the southeast, Charles McGregor has been a fan of the Dream since their inception.
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