If you haven't been paying attention to the Angel McCoughtry saga that has unfolded over the last couple of weeks then you have been missing out. Just this week the back-to-back Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Dream parted ways with the only head coach in its team history and announced an indefinite suspension for its All-Star forward in what proved to be a true cloak-and-dagger move.
We are going to begin this story back on August 17 when the WNBA returned from a month long break due to the Olympics. Both McCoughtry and Marynell Meadors were part of the Women's Olympic team that won gold in London. The Dream began the second half of the season with a 82-76 win over the Chicago Sky in which McCoughtry scored 25 points. No signs of trouble yet.
The Dream weren't as fortunate the next night as they fell to Indiana 86-72. McCoughtry scored 22 points against the Fever but sat out the next two games for what was called "personal reasons." She was honored before the Dream's next game against the Sky for her Olympic accomplishments but didn't sit on the bench with her teammates and instead sat on the opposite end of the court across from the Chicago bench. Two days later the team traveled to Washington without McCoughtry and defeated the Mystics 81-69. The lack of info on McCoughtry at this point I found strange and I wasn't the only one.
That set the stage for a WNBA Finals rematch with the Minnesota Lynx in front of a nationally televised audience on August 25. This is where things began to get interesting.
McCoughtry returned to the court against the Lynx but came off the bench and we learned on the broadcast that she was no longer a team captain. Atlanta went on to lose to the Lynx and things seemed to be testy between Meadors and McCoughtry when they met reporters after the game.
Things got real interesting on Monday when the team announced that assistant coach Fred Williams was the new head coach and general manager replacing Marynell Meadors. The official release from the team didn't mention what led to Meadors' departure but a tweet from U.S. Olympic team coach Geno Auriemma gave us a little insight.
While the team was scarce in offering up details it didn't take long to put together the pieces. Swish Appeal's James Bowman laid out the situation quickly and pointed to the problems with McCoughtry as the reasoning behind Meadors departure. This is when things went from weird to straight out absurd.
Fred Williams was to make his debut as head coach on Tuesday night against the Tulsa Shock when as the tip was going up Dream broadcaster Bob Rathbun broke the news that McCoughtry had been suspended by the team indefinitely. This set off a little bit of a furor given that Williams had told a Full Court Press writer a mere 30 minutes earlier that McCoughtry was not serving a suspension.
At any rate the team eventually did release a statement to the AP during the game that McCoughtry was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules and that she would meet with Williams on Wednesday to discuss her status. Atlanta went on to lose to the Shock and Williams had to face the media following. Of course most of the questioning centered on McCoughtry and James Bowman again provided a nice transcript of the question and answer session.
Williams again confirms the suspension but things get weird once again when the questioning centers on McCoughtry's two game absence while Meadors was still the head coach.
Reporter: Was she suspended prior to you taking over the team?
Williams: No. Not from me.
Reporter: Was she suspended by the prior coach?
Williams: By the prior coach? Yes, she was suspended by the prior coach, yes. (*)
So that seemed to confirm what we all had suspected until James was later approached by Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the Dream Tonya Alleyne who indicated that McCoughtry had not been suspended under Meadors.
Williams did meet with McCoughtry on Wednesday and delivered a written list of things that she must do and comply with before she will be reinstated to the team. Williams indicated that he didn't know whether or not McCoughtry would sign the paper in time for Thursday's shootaround.
So the team who is trying to hang onto a playoff spot won't know until sometime on Thursday whether or not their All-Star forward will be suiting up when they take on the Mystics. It is a wild turn of events for a franchise that has made back-to-back WNBA Finals appearances.
There are still plenty of unanswered questions the biggest of which is why let Meadors go if you are going to follow through with a suspension of McCoughtry a mere 24 hours later? Perhaps the two events are unrelated but that doesn't seem likely in this case given what has developed over the last two weeks.