The record books will list Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler as the WNBA's 2010 Coach of the Year, but from Agler's perspective, his name should be accompanied by a whole lot more.
"It's an individual award, but it's impacted by so many individuals," he told stormbasketball.com. "And the way I look at it and really believe, it's truly a team award because there are so many factors that play into it. The success of your team basically has a lot to do with the players you have on your team. If anybody knows how a professional team operates, a total staff puts tremendous hours into the effort. A front office, a president, an ownership group allows someone like myself to go out and recruit in a worldwide way to try to bring the best players in to fit the needs that we have.
"I think all those factors play into it. It's a great honor. I am very appreciative, but I also am a realist and I know that there's a lot of people that impact this kind of award and the success of a team."
"The way I look at it and really believe, it's truly a team award because there are so many factors that play into it"
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While Agler is right that the Storm's record-tying 28 wins during the regular season were the product of players and an entire coaching staff coming together, he's also downplaying his own role in that process. Of the 11 players on the Storm's roster, eight were acquired by Agler in his role as director of player personnel.
Granted, he inherited one of the league's top duos in MVP Lauren Jackson and All-Star point guard Sue Bird, but Agler has found the right combination of players to go around them. He added Swin Cash in a trade with Detroit, pilfered Camille Little from the Atlanta Dream in a midseason deal and helped develop Tanisha Wright into a starter after an uneven start to her WNBA career.
Having put together a strong starting five, Agler focused on the team's depth during the offseason, signing veterans Svetlana Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham. Euroleague veteran Jana Vesel has proven a steal and has established herself as part of the rotation.
Agler's steady leadership on the sidelines was a big reason why the Storm was so successful at playing through adversity, coming from behind to win 13 times after trailing through three quarters.
"He deserved it," said Jackson. "He had one of the best personal years in coaching history, so I think that he deserved it 100 percent. I think he's a great coach - one of the best coaches I've ever had. I'm happy for him, that he's getting the recognition he deserves."
What Jackson and her teammates praise is the combination of Agler's Xs & Os expertise and the relationships he has built with players, soliciting input from them.
"He's able to communicate with each of us individually and work with us individually," she explained. "He's respectful. He obviously knows a lot about the game, so all aspects of being a coach he really takes control of. I think that's something not all people have - the ability to communicate individually with women and know their weaknesses and their strengths."
Media voters agreed with Jackson, selecting Agler over a strong field of Coach of the Year contenders including New York's Anne Donovan and Washington's Julie Plank. Agler praised the work both peers have done this season, noting that the best coaching jobs often come from teams that lack the Storm's gaudy record.
For Agler, this is his second Coach of the Year honor, but first in the WNBA. He was voted the ABL's Coach of the Year in 1996-97, when his Columbus Quest posted the league's best record en route to the first of two league championships.
WNBA President Donna Orender will honor Brian Agler as the Coach of the Year before tonight's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Get your tickets now!
Still, Agler refuses to take much credit. After careful consideration, he spotlighted one player in particular as responsible for the success he's enjoyed in Seattle.
"I've thought about this a lot over the last 24 hours [since learning of the award], and even spoke to Lauren about it," said Agler. "There's an individual who could be forgotten through all this who I know for my award probably impacted it more than even I did, or our staff did, or our ownership group did, and that's Sue Bird. That's not to disrespect or disregard the other players on our team. Swin's done great things, and Camille and Tanisha, and obviously Lauren has been extremely productive.
"I think everybody understands what kind of player she is and person she is, but I don't think anybody - I know her teammates do, our staff does, our fans get a good idea - there's no one who has kept our team afloat and successful and playing at an extremely high rate over the last three years, even this year, as Sue has. Some of the plays that she makes in clutch times are just incredible. Her whole focus is our team winning. Because of that and the impact she plays on our team, there's no question that from the standpoint of my award, she's probably impacted it more than anybody else."