The long, winding road to Brian Agler’s press conference in Dallas.
From the moment his longtime partnership with head coach Fred Williams blew up on a Sunday evening in Washington, Dallas Wings president Greg Bibb identified five key characteristics of the new coach he planned to hire.
“One being someone who had a track record on the defensive side of the ball,” Bibb told High Post Hoops during a conference call this past weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s announcement that Brian Agler would be the team’s next head coach. “It’s an area that I wanted to make sure we addressed going into next year. The second was a coach who was good at helping players understand their role on the team and role definition, whether you be the star player or the twelfth one on the roster. Having an understanding amongst the players of their role. Third was a proven track record in terms of skill development, helping our young players get better. Fourth was establishing a culture of accountability. Accountability not only to the front office, to the coach and staff, but accountability to one another. And the fifth was an acceptance and the ability to work with advanced metric analytics.”
It’s fair to say that Agler embodies all five of these, but considering that at the time Williams left the Wings, Agler was still the head coach in Los Angeles, finding a proper candidate involved considerable due diligence.
Bibb said that he interviewed between 9-10 candidates. High Post Hoops has learned that four of them were Agler, Wings interim coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Mystics assistant Eric Thibault and former Xavier and Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb.
“I feel very good about our process,” Bibb said. “It was long, it was thorough. We interviewed males, we interviewed females, we interviewed coaches with experience. This is a professional game, we interviewed coaches from the collegiate game. I feel good about our process. At the end of the day for us, Brian Agler happens to be the right pick in my mind at this time for our team. Brian happens to be a male.”
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Bibb also revealed that Erin Phillips has been retained as an assistant coach. But after interviewing so many, the decision to go with Agler happened fast, according to Bibb, especially after McWilliams-Franklin took herself out of consideration to take a job with the NBA Basketball Operations Associates program.
“I reached out [to Agler] in early December, that first weekend in December, to his representation, and was notified that I was free to give him a call and talk to him and that is what I did,” Bibb said. “The process moved quickly from there forward, I think. Obviously, he’s been in the league a long time, so he had familiarity with our organization and our roster. Going through the conversation with him, I learned he thought highly of our organization and sees a lot of potential in what we’re building to Dallas, both on and off the court, by the way.
“He’s coming to Dallas with an unrivaled track record, at least in terms of the most bottom line element of a bottom line business, which is wins in women’s professional basketball in our country. His strength aligns with those areas where I felt we needed the most help.”
The entire process stands in stark contrast to the one employed by Penny Toler and the Sparks, who identified a single candidate and neglected to provide others with even the chance to interview for the position.
Agler will not be given player acquisition duties, at least in terms of final call, but Bibb described a cooperative effort between them.
“Brian and I will work, as I’ve always worked with the head coaches who have been my partners in the process,” Bibb said. “And that is in a collaborative fashion. I’m a big believer in collaboration, not only with the head coach, but with the entire coaching staff, in terms of our scouting process, our personnel decisions. I look forward to that new perspective that he’ll bring to our organization. I look forward to working with him.”
That work begins immediately: the pair are leaving the press conference in Dallas Tuesday and heading to Norman, OK, where they’ll see Connecticut in person.
After all, the months-long search is over. And in just a few more months, there’s a fifth overall pick to be made.