Attention must be paid — Marianne Stanley’s last Fever presser — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 1, 2022

All I could think as I looked at Indiana’s schedule this week — Tuesday night at home against Washington, early morning flight to New York for a true back-to-back against the Liberty Wednesday — was: I’ll bet Marianne Stanley doesn’t mind not being the Fever coach, at least for one day.

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The end of her tenure came last week. It was a move that surprised many around the league, and me as well. It’s hard when a new general manager, the one who didn’t hire you, comes in, but I felt like a combination of Lin Dunn and Stanley had as good a chance as any to change the direction of this Indiana team, one that’s been troubled since essentially the day Tamika Catchings retired as a player after the 2016 season.

Making a change right after the Fever scored 90, played the defending champs tough in Chicago, was particularly surprising. Not that this is a playoff team — that’s perfect, really, seeing green shoots out of young players like NaLyssa Smith and Emily Engstler, Kelsey Mitchell reaching superstardom, but losing enough to keep a legit mathematical shot at getting Aliyah Boston in play next lottery, too.

If this is the last coaching gig for Stanley, though, I don’t think we should ignore what her legacy is in women’s basketball. This is the coach who shaped Anne Donovan. This is a coach who did something remarkable at Old Dominion — winning AIAW and NCAA Tournament titles. She’s a Naismith Hall of Fame member, and she’s enshrined in Knoxville as well, of course.

The sheer length of the legacy is amazing to me. From the Mighty Macs as a player to the ODU dominance, to WNBA Coach of the Year in 2002, 17 years after that last ODU title, another 17 years later as top assistant to Mike Thibault for a DC team that won it all and set records for offensive efficiency. She’s written such a large part of the women’s basketball story herself.

There are plenty of different ways to measure the gap between how we cover men’s and women’s sports, but one I frequently return to is asking a simple question: how would we treat the potential end of a career similar to Stanley’s in men’s basketball? Can you imagine it happening anything like how quietly it did here? Who would that even be? Rick Pitino is probably closest, but not quite at Stanley’s level. It’s hard to fathom! I never forgot, when I covered Stanley, the legacy of who I was speaking to.

So listen to her last presser in Indiana, below. She spoke of Chicago’s continuity, and she’s right. “Once we have a core that has played together for 3, 4, 5 years, it’ll make a difference for us, too,” she added. I’d have liked her to get a chance to see it happen. But we don’t tend to wait around for results in professional sports.

I have no reason to believe it needs to be the last time we hear from Marianne Stanley in a professional capacity. But if it is, well, attention must be paid.

This week in women’s basketball

Annie Costabile recaps Diamond DeShields’ progression from future Sky star to Mercury wing.

Lin Dunn’s legacy is vital.

Charlotte Carroll is brilliant, we need WNBA Pajama Day.

Akiem Bailum weighs in on the (most recent) Liz Cambage saga.

Kenny Jacobs et al. at USA Today investigated how top collegiate athletic departments are abusing federal guidelines to overstate their Title IX compliance.

Gabe Ibrahim breaks down the film and stats behind Kelsey Plum’s second breakout for his Ball and Order newsletter.

Basketball News’ Mark Schindler looks at the stats and film from the Wings’ recent surge.

Get to know Denim DeShields.

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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.