Shock to the system
BY LYNN JACOBSEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010
5/13/10 at 9:25 AM
Related stories: Meet the Shock.
Don't be fooled: Nolan knows women.
Sellout for opener 'incredible'.
Q&A about the WNBA.
Shanna Crossley understands that not everyone is ready to buy into Nolan Richardson's "40 minutes of hell."
"All that really matters is that we believe," the former Tennessee guard said. "We hear the questions all the time. Not just about '40 minutes of hell' or whether women can play it. It's the WNBA as a whole. They look at us like 'Oh, it's Tulsa.' So yes, there is a chip on our shoulder.
"I'm not going to say we are going to go out and win a WNBA title this year, but I know we are going to make some noise."
Minnesota will be the first team to test Richardson's system Saturday when the Lynx visit the BOK Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff to open the WNBA season.
"It will be interesting to see how it works, especially when they have to play back-to-back games," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Coach Richardson has a strong attribute of what he needs in his players. He has players; he made some good trades like Amber Holt and Chante Black that were aimed at being successful in his system."
Richardson's system earned ira nickname when he was a college coach for Tulsa and then Arkansas, winning NIT and NCAA Tournament titles in a game that features two 20-minute halves. The name fits for the WNBA, too, with games made up of four 10-minute quarters.
Women's basketball television analyst Debbie Antonelli is interested to find out how the Shock fits the system.
"It's full-court, 94 feet of pressure at both ends of the court," Debbie Antonelli said. "Can it work? I don't see why not. It's not hard to get women, or any player, to run the lanes and think about scoring. When you buy into it on the defensive end, that can make you a really good team.
"Women are quicker, faster, stronger but we're also more skilled. The women's game has evolved so much offensively that I'm very excited to see if (coach Richardson's) style will work. We've seen Phoenix put pressure on and they aren't even known for their defense.
"He has a trademark signature way of playing, and it's going to be fun to check out. I'm anxious to see it."
Antonelli likens Richardson's style of play to that of North Carolina.
"It takes a certain type of player to play for Sylvia Hatchell," she said. "Coach Richardson has the same philosophy. You have to like to run and you have to be athletic. That style of play can neutralize post play. He may be able to take away the 6-foot-5 post player that just runs rim-to-rim. Against his style, players have to be able to face up, handle the ball, attack the rim, get to the free throw line and give yourself a breather."
Nancy Lieberman, a longtime friend of Richardson's, said she believes his players' athleticism fits his system.
"He knows what kind of players he needs and he has them," she said. "It's going to disrupt people, bother people. His whole system is predicated on energy and effort. I like his team. They have the core base of a championship team. Kara Braxton hasn't even hit her peak yet. Alexis Hornbuckle is only going to get better. Plenette Pierson is going to get better because she's healthy. This is not an expansion team.
"His system is going to make people uncomfortable. He's not the first to do that. There's been pretty intense defenses in the WNBA."
But not everyone is sold.
Michelle Voepel, who writes for ESPN.com, picked the Shock to finish last in the Western Conference, writing "If the Shock roster had stayed mostly intact in the move from Detroit, this season would be a different story.
"As it is, Tulsa is likely to have a difficult time staying out of the West cellar — even if the players adjust well to new coach Nolan Richardson's system. That doesn't mean the Shock are going to be a bad team; in fact, they might prove pretty entertaining to watch. But victories still might be elusive."
Said Richardson, "My system is not about us. It's about the opponent. How do they handle it? You want them tired, frustrated. Not us."
Crossley likes what she has seen.
"Coach Richardson has been coaching for longer than I've been alive," she said. "His assistants have been with him for almost as long as I've been alive. I'm pretty confident they know what they are doing. They say that we're catching on faster than any team they've had, and we're working harder than any team they've had. And that they don't want to ever coach guys again. I think that says a lot.
"We're completely different from the men. The men's game is much faster and is played above the rim. The biggest difference from our perspective is that we play with so much self-confidence. It's kind of like our work ethic. It's a different game. The ball still goes through the hoop, the basket is still 10 feet high, but the similarity ends there."
Antonelli said it appears Richardson has found the right mix of talent.
"This is a team with a lot of overachievers who are getting a second chance," she said. "That is going to be a hungry group, and that makes them very dangerous."
SHOCK OPENER: VS. MINNESOTA LYNX, 7 P.M. SATURDAY, BOK CENTER
Tickets for the Tulsa Shock are on sale now. Single-game tickets range from
$10 to $125, and season ticket packages begin at $180 and escalate to
$1,890. To purchase tickets, call 599-9622 or go to tulsaworld.com/shock.
Lynn Jacobsen 581-8461
Tulsa Shock head coach Nolan Richardson directs his players during training camp last month. Richardson brings his "40 minutes of hell" system from the men's college game to the WNBA when the Shock opens its season Saturday night at the BOK Center. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World