October 27, 2021
What we learned about the Atlanta Dream’s new brain trust
Wright, Padover and Taylor discuss goals for 2022 and beyond
The Atlanta Dream started anew on Monday.
The team introduced new head coach Tanisha Wright and new general manager Dan Padover, both of whom were poached from the Las Vegas Aces brain trust, as well as new assistant general manager Darius Taylor, who spent the second half of 2021 as the team’s interim head coach.
During the press conference, that trio and co-owner Larry Gottesdiener offered a telling vision of the franchise’s future.
The philosophy comes before the personnel, and the personnel comes before the scheme
When Wright spoke with assembled media on Monday, she harped on one word more than any other: accountability.
“We want to make sure that we are searching and pursuing not just talented players, but ones who demonstrate character, work ethic and accountability,” Wright said.
Over the 2021 season, the Dream struggled to find an identity that revolved around that attribute. In July, the team suspended Chennedy Carter after determining that her actions and attitude were negatively affecting the team, which culminated in a confrontation between herself and teammate Courtney Williams.
In May, Williams and teammate Crystal Bradford were involved in a violent altercation in a parking lot, which the team was aware of but only came to the public’s attention after the season when Williams shared the video on her YouTube channel. The team has cut ties with both players following the video’s release.
The ownership group has made it clear that it wishes to leave the issues of 2021 in 2021, and build on a new foundation.
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“I think [we want] players who have a toughness to them, mentally, and then have character,” Wright said. “I think character is really really important as we build this franchise into a model franchise. It’s the people that we bring in, not just players but the staff, and so forth.”
“We’re going to be as transparent as possible, and we have no problem owning up to mistakes we’ve made in the past,” Gottesdiener added.
When asked to describe the type of personnel that the team wants to bring in this offseason, Padover ensured that the front office isn’t pigeonholing into one style of play. The personnel will come first — then the scheme will be established based on those players.
What we know about the possible targets, returners in 2022
Just because the Dream doesn’t know its scheme doesn’t mean Atlanta hasn’t identified what it wants on the floor in its future. During a press conference toward the end of the season, Taylor (then wearing a coaching hat, rather than an assistant GM one) dropped hints as to the team’s tentative goals for the offseason.
“We’ve got to fill some holes,” Taylor said after the team’s penultimate game against the Los Angeles Sparks. “It’s perimeter shooting, and I think probably adding in another big, that might allow us to single up more in the post. And then it’s just really getting stabilization on the perimeter.”
During the introductory press conference, Taylor mentioned that it was a long-time goal of his to work in a WNBA front office, and he was transparent about the roster during the season. After several late-season losses, Taylor mentioned the importance of having three strong shot creators in late-game situations, which Atlanta lacked after injuries to Tiffany Hayes and Carter, followed by Carter’s 15-game suspension.
Cheyenne Parker is the only player on the Dream roster who is currently on a guaranteed contract. The rest of the team is either a free agent or is on a non-guaranteed contract, according to figures acquired by Her Hoop Stats. With a deep free-agent class that includes former MVPs in Jonquel Jones and Tina Charles, as well as all-WNBA talents like Jewell Loyd and Angel McCoughtry, Padover will have plenty of targets to work with. Both Padover and Wright have a previous relationship with Charles, which Charles mentioned after a game against New York earlier this season.
“This is a totally new organization, totally different people who are here,” Charles said after the game. “Bill Laimbeer isn’t here, Dan Padover, Kristin Bernert. The people who believed in me and brought me here. If they were still here it would be a whole different story. Playing against a team that happens to be in New York for me.”
In an interview with ESPN’s Michelle Voepel, Padover said he would speak with each of the team’s players — including Carter — this offseason and assess what their future with the franchise will hold.
Dream goal: Keep the front office on the same page
Atlanta’s new general manager and new head coach come from the same franchise. That should help them get on the same page, according to Padover.
“There’s an inherent trust between Tanisha and myself,” Padover said. “That is so important as you go through the battles of a WNBA season.”
During their two years together on the Aces, the team went 36-12. During Gottesdiener’s first year as co-owner, the team went 8-24, and he admitted that the team “didn’t really have a front office this past year.” The new front office’s experience and connection should offer the chance to take a step in the right direction, Padover said.
“Her ability to not only look to get wins for a team, but also to build these players up, it’s really inspiring,” he said. “On a personal note, being able to see someone you have personal history with gets this opportunity, it just makes you want to work that much harder to make this team that much better.”