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Sun brass answer to the fans

Mohegan - Among the most hotly discussed issues at Monday's Connecticut Sun fan forum: Fans who weren't getting enough free T-shirts thrown to their section during games.

"Would you ever have guessed this would be the most controversial topic of the evening?" Sun general manager Chris Sienko said as the crowd laughed.

Still, team-oriented issues were discussed more than freebies during the question-and-answer session at the Mohegan Sun's Cabaret Theatre.

Sun coach Mike Thibault, assistant coach Scott Hawk and Sienko spent almost two hours talking to nearly 80 fans about January's trade in which Connecticut acquired Renee Montgomery and the top pick in this April's draft for Lindsay Whalen, and the status of Erin Phillips, Tamika Whitmore and Tan White.

The Sun announced that White, a free agent guard, was re-signed to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. White started in 15 of 30 games last season and averaged 9.2 points.

Preston's Lenny Caruso, a three-year season ticket holder, enjoyed the Q&A.

"I think they should do this every year just to hear basketball talk," Caruso said. "I think they're very intelligent people, the coaches. Just to hear basketball jargon and know what's going on. You can see it on the Internet if you want, but to hear it firsthand from the coaches (is better)."

Said Thibault: "When fans have questions or opinions, they shouldn't feel like they won't be listened to. That was the point - to give them an opportunity to be heard."

Thibault expected to field more questions about trading Whalen, who had been one of the team's most popular players.

"In all seriousness," Thibault asked the crowd, "who's still unhappy today and tell us why?"

No one spoke up.

"People that disagree the most with things often don't want to come and say it in person," Thibault said afterward.

Phillips, a popular guard, is a reserved free agent who can only sign with the Sun. She could be signed and traded, however.

"We made her a contract offer," Thibault said. "I know that she has a concern, and it's probably the same concern that I have the other way - there are minutes issues. Erin, deep down, wants to be a starting player. With bringing (free agent guard) Kara Lawson here and Renee and (re-signing) Tan ... I don't think she knows what her role would be on this team."

Phillips started 18 of 32 games last season and averaged 8.1 points.

"She wanted to be a starter last year," Thibault said. "She struggled the first month of the season. We needed to make a change. We changed the lineup and asked her to be the sixth man and kind of give us energy off the bench. She was up and down with that."

An anonymous fan wrote asking why Whitmore was still with the team, and said that her demonstrative nature and tattoos didn't make her a good role model.

Whitmore, a veteran forward, is in the last year of a guaranteed maximum salary.

"Whit had a very good first year for us," Thibault said. "Last year, and I told her this, she stole money from us. What I mean is that she didn't come to play."

But Thibault defended Whitmore the person.

"I don't know that having a tattoo has any say about being a good role model," Thibault said. "She's as good as any human being you'd want to be around.

"Last year, my daughter's boyfriend was having car issues, and everyone knows that Whit is a mechanic. She fixed the whole thing, got the parts, for gratis."

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