The surprise announcement that Laurel Richie is leaving her post as WNBA president puts NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the spotlight. It appears to be a new task he relishes, easy to understand for one of the architects of the original WNBA business plan 20 years ago. “There are societal forces at work that are undeniable,” Silver told USA Today Sports. “But we wouldn’t be doing this in the way we are if we, the WNBA and the NBA had the opportunity to influence consumer behavior, fan behavior and directly impact people’s desire to watch women’s basketball games in person, and watch the WNBA on television. So we believe that we can effect change. I believe that I personally can do more to grow the WNBA. I believe it is necessary, at least in the short-term, that I commit more of my time to the success of the league.”
“I’m not looking for a miracle,” Silver said. “And I would say that I recognize in this business that growth comes incrementally. This is not a full court shot, and not even a halfcourt shot. This is about steady, incremental growth. And that’s all the WNBA expect from the league. And that’s all the NBA owners expect, because remember, they too fund the league. We all just want to see continued growth. But I just want to reaffirm—everybody is 100 percent behind this league. Laurel leaving is a bump in the road. But we’ll pick up exactly where she leaves off. And the only change I can commit to is, I can do more, and I will be more.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the departure of WNBA president Laurel Richie offers the league an opportunity to “reset” heading into its landmark 20th season. Richie announced Wednesday that after five years she is stepping down, moving on to pursue other interests. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will run the league on an interim basis. Silver, in a phone interview with espnW, emphasized that the change was Richie’s decision.
It was Silver himself who started that discussion in late September during the WNBA playoffs when he said, during a conference on women in sports, that the league wasn’t “where we hoped it would be.” Silver said those comments were not connected to Richie’s departure. “I knew those questions would come,” Silver said. “And I knew people would ask about the permanence of the league. I want to be clear. We are 100 percent committed to the league.”
The Timberwolves will play in the building through the renovation. But the WNBA’s Lynx will have to move out of the building for the 2017 season while renovations are completed. It is not yet known where the Lynx will play. The Wolves also announced an extension of the naming rights deal with Target.
League president Laurel Richie remains optimistic about the health of the WNBA, despite a tumultuous season involving off-court issues and the absence of former MVP Diana Taurasi and promising star Skylar Diggins. “I think part of the culture of the larger NBA enterprise is always wanting more and always wanting to do better,” Richie said last week. “We at the WNBA take that approach, as well. We are always looking at what can we do to strengthen and grow our fan base, to extend into new partnerships.
Bill Laimbeer earned his second WNBA Coach of the Year honor on Thursday. A member of the Detroit Pistons’ 1989 and 1990 championship teams, Laimbeer received 23 votes from a panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters, the AP reported, after he led the New York Liberty to a franchise-record 23 wins and No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.