I recently contacted Patrick Sheehy, who is a long time Storm fan and current season ticket holder. He was also the focus of our Sonics piece over the last couple days where he gave his thoughts on recent developments regarding the Sacramento Kings possibly moving to Seattle this fall and also gave his thoughts on how the Storm figured to be a part of any new NBA team in Seattle, regardless of whether it was the Kings or an expansion team.
But now we move our focus on the NBA relocation rumors over the last couple days and ask him more questions, this time solely on the WNBA and the Seattle Storm.
Swish Appeal: How long have you been a season ticket holder for the Storm and what has been your favorite moment so far since being a season ticket holder for the team?
Patrick Sheehy: I started going to individual games in 2001, bought my first game packages in 2003 and after watching the  Finals from the nosebleeds, I became a season ticket holder in 2005.
There have been many amazing moments for me as a fan watching on the court from Sue Bird’s buzzer beaters to the shooting duel between Betty Lennox and Nykesha Sales in game 3 of the 2004 Finals, but my favorite moment will always be from my first season ticket holder event. My youngest son (3 or 4 at the time) was obsessed with Lauren Jackson and could not contain himself waiting for our turn to have LJ sit down to talk with our section of fans. When the moment finally arrived and she looked in his direction he fell to the floor and hid under a chair for her whole timeslot with us.
SA: Many WNBA fans and players consider the Seattle Storm fans and its game experience to be among the best, if not the best in the league. In your opinion, what are the factors that help Seattle earn this reputation as a great city for both WNBA players and fans?
PS: I had no interest in the WNBA when it first launched…I knew it was around, and I knew about the ABL team in Seattle as well, but I was primarily an NBA fan and a season ticket holder for the Sonics. I went to my first Storm game in 2001 because I had free tickets from the Sonics. The crowd was not big, but [the Storm fans] were incredible. Their love for the game was so vibrant, so pure…there was none of the fair weather fan, be there to be seen type crowd I was used to at the NBA games.
I remember the crowd chanting the name of Michelle Marciniak to get the coach to put her in the game because they believed she would make a difference. Then-Head Coach Lin Dunn finally submitted and Marciniak turned the game around.
Fans understand the game; they have this raw, fiery passion for the sport that is simply palpable in the arena. The organization makes them feel like they are truly part of the team and the fans embrace it completely. The crowd is so welcoming to everyone, first timers, kids, families of every possible kind, and fans of opposing teams. Honestly they have the most diverse crowds of all local sports and it is like one big family. They have fun together even when the game is not going well or when the in arena entertainment isn’t that successful.
SA: During the course of the Brian Agler coaching regime, the Storm has focused building around Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson with veteran players which definitely worked out in 2010 when the team won the Finals, but that strategy hasn’t panned out as well over the last couple years. Would you like to see the Storm strive to become a younger team over the next several years and how would you like to see this happen?
PS: I am not sure that the strategy was a failure. In truth the team has gone the way of Lauren Jackson’s health. When she has been healthy and contributing at her top level they win, when she is not they have come up short in the first round. I think the Storm needs youth, there is no doubt about that, but I don’t think striving to become a younger team is the best option.
There are other areas they need to address like how to get more production behind Jackson so she does not have to play to the point of injury. They need better production from the backcourt when Sue Bird rests. I think the offense could be refreshed with more motion and athleticism. They need someone who can create their own shot in the clutch.
When it comes to youth, most teams don’t get the benefit of a massive influx of young talent like Minnesota or Atlanta have had. Atlanta was good with McCoughtry but it was more experienced players like Price, DeSouza, Castro-Marques and Harding that came into the team and made it work. Minnesota had a wealth of great draft selections with a player the caliber of Maya Moore to top it off. Seattle made the playoffs for the first time [in 2002] after getting back to back first overall picks in Jackson and Bird but didn’t win until they got veterans like Lennox and Sheri Sam. Teams don’t get that lucky in the draft easily. We won’t see another team with the depth of Minnesota very often.
Youth is key to addressing the long term future, and can help the near term success, but I don’t think blowing this team up and going young is the best strategy.
SA: With the major rule changes coming to the WNBA for 2013 which include the near-NBA length three and the defensive three seconds rules, how do you think these new rules will affect the Storm?
PS: The new three point line won’t impact the Storm all that much. All the players play overseas and in international competition…so I don’t anticipate any changes in terms of game planning. Percentages may dip a bit at first, and the total number of attempts may dip, but I believe it will normalize by the end of the season. League wise, these are some the best players in the world at this sport…I don’t see any team being impacted [adversely] by the new three point line.
The defensive three second rule however is a huge issue for the Storm and many of the current WNBA defensive approaches. The Storm use a very strong help-side defense with specific rules about where you stand on the court when the player you are guarding does not have the ball. The Storm weak side defenders (two passes away from the ball) will straddle the midline of the paint. Under the new rules, they will have to be sure to “cleanse” themselves by getting their feet out of the paint every three seconds. That will open up more driving lanes to the basket for opposing guards and increase the recovery time for help on dribble penetration.
I suspect that Coach Agler will have to adopt a new strategy for help defense. He could go to a slightly less aggressive help defense having those same player straddle the paint edge…allowing them to cleanse by merely lifting the foot in the paint or stepping it outside the paint frequently without shifting directional momentum. He could change things up entirely…I am really interested to see what the Storm and other teams do to adjust. I expect a lot of early season whistles for defensive three seconds.
SA: The Storm currently has the 6th pick in the WNBA Draft and has a shot to add another younger rotation player. Do you have any players in mind that could be good fits in Seattle with that pick?
PS: We all know that there is a huge difference between the top three picks and the rest of the draft this year. However, that does not mean that there is a lack of talent for the next 7 picks. Those first three all have instant impact potential for the franchises that select them, but there are some good prospects still out there [after the 3rd pick].
You have shooter/scorer Sugar Rodgers from Georgetown, Tayler Hill from Coach Agler’s backyard at Ohio State who can score and defend, point guard Angel Goodrich and her frontcourt mate, Carolyn Davis from Kansas, point guard Lindsey Moore out of Nebraska and another defensive standout in Alex Bentley from Penn State.
You can’t draft by position in this league…you have to fill roles from trades and free agent signings. You really need to take the best talent available and go for someone you think will grow with your team and maybe contribute something this season. I think those are all players that could fill that profile. Coach Agler likes athleticism and defense, so those qualities could color his personal preference come draft day.
SA: Lastly, how far do you see the Storm going this year? What would be a successful season for you?
PS: This is always a tough question. So much is dependent on so many variables. The west is going to get even more brutal with even more top draft picks heading this side of the Mississippi and with Lindsey Harding leaving Atlanta to play in LA.
How will the new defensive rules impact the Storm’s very successful defense of the Brian Agler years? There will be no Lauren Jackson [because she is sitting out this season] and no Ann Wauters. Who among the many recent post players will Seattle bring back? Is there anyone on the free agent market that can make a difference now that the Storm has lots of cap space this season? Will Bird’s second [hip] surgery allow her to return to form? The outlook is not good.
The Storm has shown that it can compete during the regular season without LJ in the past, but it also has a long history of failing in the playoffs without her. Given how strong the west could be this summer, I will not be surprised if the Storm’s playoff streak ends this year. I am still processing the latest roster news, and resetting my expectations. I believe at this point that success will involve creating some more creativity and consistency in the offense and seeing real, tangible growth from the youth on the team.
In Part 2 which will be released tomorrow, we will take a look at how Patrick as a general WNBA fan thinks of the Washington Mystics’ current offseason.