Coaching draws Cowens back -- to WNBA

5/10/2006 - WNBA

CHICAGO -- There was the occasional speaking engagement and trip to the golf course. Otherwise, Dave Cowens had settled comfortably into semiretirement and wasn't thinking about a return to basketball.

Now, the former Boston Celtics star is back in familiar, yet
new, territory as the head coach and general manager of the WNBA's
expansion Chicago Sky. The first practice was Sunday, and the first
game is May 20 in Charlotte.

"Things just sort of happen with me," Cowens said Monday at
the team's media day. "I don't have a big major master plan. But
I'm glad I'm here."

Cowens, 58, wasn't necessarily looking to get back in
the game when he met owner Mike Alter at the men's Final Four in
St. Louis last year. It sparked his curiosity, though, and a
meeting in Chicago with president and CEO Margaret Stender did
nothing to diminish it.

He loved the idea of becoming a general manager, even if his
knowledge of the WNBA was limited.

"You know how everybody looks at a player and goes, 'Yeah, she
reminds me of X? Well, I don't know who X is,'" Cowens said.

He laughed.

A Hall of Fame center with the Celtics in the 1970s, Cowens'
last coaching job was with the Golden State Warriors from 2000-02.

Now, he's in a league where players earn $30,000 to $90,000,
where many head overseas during the offseason or pursue other jobs.
Sky forward Stacey Dales-Schuman is an ESPN analyst. Former
Tennessee star Nikki McCray owns two daycare centers in Knoxville.

The pace is slower. The game is played below the rim. And it's
all new to Cowens.

He has watched hours of video, trying to figure out: "What is
average? What does the average player do?"

Cowens saw some Charlotte Sting games when he was coaching the
Hornets in the 1990s. And the Sky will open the season against a
Sting team coached by one of Cowens' former players, Muggsy Bogues.

Otherwise, Cowens' exposure to the women's game is limited.

He knew little about the players when he put together this team
and, well, he still does.

League rules prevented him from talking to them before the
expansion draft, and one selection -- Laura Macchi of the Los
Angeles Sparks -- decided to stay in Italy.

"She's a pretty good player," Cowens said. "Now how was I
supposed to know she was going to decide not to play when I can't
even talk to her? We thought she was the one who would be able to
help us more than anybody else."

Cowens is not the first former NBA coach or star player to make
the move to the WNBA. Bill Laimbeer coached the Detroit Shock to
the championship in 2003 and Michael Cooper coached the Los Angeles
Sparks to two titles.

The players are excited -- about introducing the WNBA to the
Chicago area and about working with a Hall of Famer. They expect to
learn from Cowens and think he can learn from them.

"At this stage, everyone is a professional," said Brooke
Wyckoff, playing for her third WNBA rookie coach. "Everyone knows
the game, and they know the players. So I think it behooves a coach
to be open to asking [us] about certain players. At this level,
everyone's adults. Everyone's mature in this game."

In Cowens, she sees someone with a "huge passion for