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Dream hire 2x Aces Exec of the Year Dan Padover as GM ahead of busy offseason, free agency

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The Atlanta Dream finalized their front office with the hiring of Dan Padover as general manager and promoting longtime assistant and former interim coach Darius Taylor to assistant general manager, the team announced Monday. 

It's the second Dream hire to come straight from the Las Vegas Aces organization as Padover is the reigning two-time WNBA Executive of the Year with the franchise. The Dream announced the hiring of Tanisha Wright, former Aces assistant coach, as their head coach two weeks ago. 

The trio fill out the empty positions in a franchise that's still in the throes of a tumultuous period.

“We set out to create a leadership group with experience building winning teams underpinned by a values-based culture,” Larry Gottesdiener, Dream owner and chairman, said in a release. “Dan is one of the most well-respected executives in the WNBA with a track record that speaks for itself. Darius has been an integral part of the Dream organization for four years and has earned the trust and respect of the players and ownership. These hires fill out the leadership team along with Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Abair, and Vice President Renee Montgomery.”

The Dream will now go into a busy free agency period in which only one player is signed to a protected contract and three WNBA MVPs are on the market. 

Padover moves from Aces to Dream 

Dan Padover
Dan Padover won the WNBA Basketball Executive of the Year award, handed out by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, for the second time in as many seasons. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Padover was named Basketball Executive of the Year for 2021 after the Aces locked in the No. 2 overall seed, had A'ja Wilson in MVP contention and led the Sixth Player of the Year race with two favorites. 

He won in 2020 as the Aces swiped the No. 1 seed on the final day with the best record of the season. The Aces went 63-25 during this three years with the franchise. He took over for head coach Bill Laimbeer, who served in both roles. He had previously worked as the vice president of basketball operations for the New York Liberty. 

Now, the UConn graduate will be tasked with brining similar success to Atlanta, a franchise that is in full re-build mode from ownership to role players. 

“To build an organization from the ground up with new ownership and new leadership in a top-ten market like Atlanta is such a unique and exciting opportunity,” Padover said in a release. “My ultimate goal is to help create a model WNBA franchise and bring a championship to the city. Rebuilds don’t happen overnight, but this organization is now uniquely positioned to create a winning culture.”

The Dream have gone 23-65 in the same timeframe and have a blank canvas with which to work. 

Taylor moves into front office 

Taylor joined the Dream in 2017 as assistant coach and took on the interim role late in 2021 after Nicki Collen left for Baylor ahead of the season and assistant/interim Mike Petersen stepped away for health reasons. 

“Being a leader in the front office of a WNBA team is something that I have aspired to be, and I am extremely excited about this opportunity,” Taylor said in a release. “To go from a season ticket holder to head coach and now assistant general manager is truly a full circle moment. I look forward to learning from Dan, a respected leader in the industry, and working closely with him as we rebuild this team and create success. Atlanta deserves that and so do these incredible women who put on a Dream uniform.”

He was previously an assistant under Dawn Staley at South Carolina, recruiting the class that helped bring the school its first title, and has worked in the NBA's Developmental League. His wife, Joni Taylor, is head coach of the Georgia women's basketball team. 

Dream questions entering free agency

The Dream, which was sold to new ownership nearly a year ago, also hired former NFL executive Morgan Shaw Parker as president and COO this offseason. With the front office assembled, it's time for the Dream to dive into free agency decisions. 

And there are a lot of them. 

"It's a basketball purist's dream," Padover told ESPN. "You're building in every way: through the draft, through free agency and through a leadership perspective. Kind of every reason you get into the profession."

Only Cheyenne Parker is signed to a protected contract for 2021. She sat out the second half of the season while pregnancy and it's unclear if she would be ready to start the 2022 campaign in May. 

The agent for Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford said the franchise told him it will not bring them back after video surfaced of the two involved in a fight outside a food truck in May. Co-owner Renee Montgomery said the Dream knew about the video when it happened, but had not seen the entire thing and was working with the players association to investigate it

Will Dream have Chennedy Carter back? 

Chennedy Carter
Atlanta guard Chennedy Carter served an indefinite suspension for the second half of the season and her return to the Dream is unclear. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Padover confirmed the two will not be coming back, and addressed the indefinite suspension of Chennedy Carter. The No. 4 overall draft pick in 2020 was suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team" in July and never returned. Though she did have some things to say on Twitter after the fight went wide on the internet. 

"I plan to reach out to each of the players on our roster, including Chennedy, and take the winter to figure out the structure of our roster," Padover told ESPN. 

Carter and Aari McDonald, a 2021 all-rookie team selection, are on unprotected contracts, via Her Hoop Stats, as are Tianna Hawkins and Maite Carzola, who did not play in 2021.

Padover said he wants to make the Dream a "destination franchise." Founded in 2008, the Dream have reached the WNBA Finals three times (all with Angel McCoughtry, now with the Aces) and have five playoff appearances. They finished 8-24 last season, in front of only the Indiana Fever (6-26). 

The Dream have the second-best odds in December's draft lottery behind the Fever, per Across the Timeline.