Sun still getting together despite being apart
The Connecticut Sun were scheduled to play their ninth game of the WNBA season Friday night at home against the Seattle Storm.
Instead, the Sun were all at their respective homes because the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily suspended the season.
The entire team still gets together once a week, though, thanks to video conferencing. They were scheduled to have their fourth get together on Thursday.
"A 'Zoom Team Huddle', we call them," Sun head coach and general manger Curt Miller said. "(It's) to bring back a little bit of normalcy to their lives and just reconnecting us. I know for many of us, just the social interactions with people that are so dear and important in our lives, it's just a great weekly escape from what is our new normal on a day-to-day basis."
Miller's staff, assistants Chris Koclanes and Brandi Poole and video coordinator Awvee Storey have taken on specific assignments. Koclanes has gone over the defense, Poole the offense and Storey ball-handling skills.
"The first two (meetings) had an Xs and Os component," Miller said. "How we like to play, and what is important to us, and starting to build a base conversation with our philosophical approach on the court for our new team members. And it's a good review for our returning players."
Connecticut has three starters back who have been part of its core the past four seasons — post Jonquel Jones, forward Alyssa Thomas and point guard Jasmine Thomas. Reserves Bria Holmes and Natisha Hiedeman (guards), and posts Brionna Jones and Theresa Plaisance, also return.
The Sun have four newcomers — three-time All-Star DeWanna Bonner (forward-guard), veteran guards Briann January and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and rookie guard Kaila Charles.
There is, of course, only so much instruction that can be done via video. There are also people who learn better by doing.
"We keep reminding ourselves if we have a season, we will still have a training camp," Miller said. "As much Xs and Os as we talk, we're still going to have to teach this again on the court and get their reps."
The coaches have had to get creative to do their jobs, too, such as Storey's method of filming his twice-a-week ball-handling workouts with the team.
"He does an awesome job," Poole said. "(He) sets up a camera in the back of his SUV. ... and then all the other girls are on Zoom, too, in their garages or their driveways or whatever. You can see a lot and can get a pretty decent workout ball-handling in 15-to-20 minutes."
Miller had the team take a break from basketball on their third meeting and invited a guest speaker, Holly Rowe, who is both an ESPN broadcast and cancer survivor.
"(She) talked about her journey and her perseverance and how she approaches, as a professional, her job on a day-to-day basis," Miller said. "(I) just felt like she has tremendous respect around our league and with our players. It was great to have Holly join our call."
The staff has had individual conversations with the new players to go over team concepts and terminology. There's been other activities, such as a yoga Zoom on Wednesday's led by Storey's sister, Batya.
"She works at a studio in Chicago," Poole said, "and it has been awesome to participate in, to feel a little bit of community together on a Zoom. (We'll) do an hour of yoga together. She's freaking awesome."
Miller has been mindful, too, about letting the players enjoy their downtime. WNBA players don't make anywhere near the amount of money that those make in North America's four major professional leagues, so many play overseas during the offseason to help supplement their income in a profession that doesn't last very long compared to others.
"These guys are enjoying some time off that they don't typically have," Miller said. "There's very much been an intent by us to, at times, let them enjoy this unprecedented time (the pandemic) around family, around friends."