Sue Favor interviewed Donna Orender at the “Sunset Showdown” Saturday June 5 when the Los Angeles Sparks hosted the Seattle Storm at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Her thoughts on a number of league-related issues:
We’re still entertaining interest in the Bay Area. We’re really pleased with what’s happened in Seattle with Bing. In terms of companies and sponsorships there still seems to be good growth.
We’ve certainly seen a lot more interest [in sponsoring a team]. We see companies wanting to spend more. Overall sponsorship is up double digits for our teams.
On ratings so far this season
We’re pleased about our television ratings, our opening ratings were more than double what our overall season ratings were. What we’re seeing is general interest continuing to grow. I still believe it’s about the quality of the game. The quality of the competition is extraordinary, and I think that continues to draw more people into the game.
On the 11-player roster and fan discontent with the shrinkage of player spots
I’ve heard the same thing [that people are disappointed in the 11-player rosters], and I’ve had a lot of interactions with fans. We’re coming off our best competitive season yet with 11-player rosters, and I don’t think anyone can ignore the quality of the play, and it continues to get better and better. And so therefore there hasn’t been a negative net. There’s been a positive on one hand. On the other, would it be nice to have more players. I think our teams would enjoy another player, and I think we will continue to monitor it as we move forward.
What I love about the WNBA is even why we’re here: it’s an innovative league, we’re open, we’re nimble, and we continue to monitor what works and what we can do better. So it’s not like anything’s cast in stone, but we’re very attuned to creating a solid, good business model that we can create growth upon, and right now we’re firing on a lot of quality cylinders of our business model.
Where we were from day one compared to where we are now just shows tremendous growth, from the way the community has embraced this team. I think Coach Richardson is an outstanding human being and a great coach. I think things in Tulsa are going pretty well.
On the start of the season
Having the season start a little bit later is to everyone’s advantage, and on a long-term basis, that’s what we’ll be looking towards executing. Moving forward, the Olympics will always be a part of what we do.
On the race for MVP
I think last year we had five candidates going into the end, and like I said, the quality of the play is outstanding. And after 14 years of being in existence, we’re seeing maturation in the quality of play. The great players are getting better, the young players start out better, and the numbers of players who are vying to be great are better. All that just adds up to excellence, and that’s what we’re seeing. Look at what Candace has put together, and Angel McCoughtry-let me tell you-this kid’s for real; she’s making it happen.
These kids are playing a higher level of basketball at a younger age with better coaches, and they’re playing in more competitive leagues. A lot of athletes are getting quality play at a variety of institutions. I think we’re creating that, and then we’re benefiting from it, so it’s a very virtuous cycle.
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