Commentary

Dream leadership is lacking

Firing Meadors, suspending McCoughtry at this point is disruptive, distracting

Originally Published: August 29, 2012
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW

We'll start this with the caveat that it's always much easier to theoretically run somebody else's business than it is to do it for real. Because you are only making theoretical mistakes and potentially losing theoretical money.

That said, you can't help but wonder how things could have been handled much worse than they have been in Atlanta, including from a perception/PR standpoint.

[+] EnlargeWilliams
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty ImagesFred Williams has taken over Atlanta since Marynell Meadors was fired Monday.

In the latest chapter of the "As the Dream Turns" saga, Atlanta lost 84-80 Tuesday to a Tulsa team that hadn't previously won on the road this season. It was announced before the game that Angel McCoughtry had been suspended "indefinitely."

Fred Williams, who took over as Dream head coach/general manager when Marynell Meadors was let go Monday, is at least going to try to establish that he's boss. And Dream ownership likely wants it to appear that McCoughtry didn't complain her way to getting rid of Meadors without there being at least some consequence for it.

Still, you might be wondering if this is a classic example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

By firing Meadors after McCoughtry left the team for two games -- including her bizarre appearance at a home game where she sat in the stands, and not on her team's bench -- the Dream owners sent a message that they were picking the player over the coach. It's absurd if they think observers would not perceive it that way.

Williams' suspension of McCoughtry after the Dream got rid of Meadors makes it seem as if ownership is trying to have it both ways: They wanted to make McCoughtry happy, but also to attempt to impose some discipline on her that would appease any of her teammates who were irritated by this whole mess.

Which leaves us with this question: How long is indefinite? If you've fired a head coach because your star was unhappy, you've cast your lot completely with that star, haven't you? Some might wonder: Why even bother suspending McCoughtry at this point? Isn't it just delaying the inevitable? McCoughtry, her teammates and the staff have to reunite and move forward sometime.

[+] EnlargeAtlanta Dream and Tulsa Shock
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty ImagesThings have been a bit up in the air for both the Shock and Dream.

The best Dream fans can hope for is that perhaps the suspension will do some good in allowing McCoughtry and the team to regroup. At this point, though, it's really hard to be sure what is passing for leadership with this franchise.

If the Dream ownership really felt it was an unavoidable choice between the 69-year-old coach and the almost 26-year-old superstar (McCoughtry's birthday is in September), you can understand the harsh practicality that super-talented players in their prime years are very valuable. But did that decision really have to be made in-season? Couldn't ownership have held firm that it probably wasn't in the team's best interest for 2012 to have this disruption?

And if McCoughtry's suspension indeed lasts awhile, then the question becomes: Why did they get rid of Meadors now? The Dream's decisions might end up giving them the worst of both worlds, and they actually didn't do McCoughtry any favors by handling it like this.

In the meantime, you have to feel for a group of Atlanta players who are just trying to win games and advance to the playoffs. They started out Tuesday very well against the Shock, who had their own disappointment to deal with earlier in the day with the news that Liz Cambage will not compete in the WNBA this season.

But then things began to erode for the Dream. The Shock, very hungry for victory, were able to get their fifth win of the season, while Atlanta dropped to 12-13.

What's next for Atlanta? Starting with last-place Washington coming to town Thursday, five of the Dream's next six games are at home. Then they close the regular season with three games on the road.

Considering the teams behind them, the Dream should still cross the finish line and head to the playoffs even if they're leaking oil over the track during the last several laps of this race.

But then what kind of shape are they going to be in for the postseason?

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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