Team concentrating on building a championship culture
The Dallas Wings, one of only two WNBA teams in Texas, opened the 2017 season in Phoenix with a 68-58 win over the Mercury, a victory that hopefully bodes well for the team’s second season being based in North Texas.
Kaela Davis, the 6-foot-2 rookie guard who helped South Carolina win the NCAA championship in March, scored a game-high 20 points in her professional debut. The Wings were down by 2 at the half, but came on strong in the fourth quarter, with Davis sinking a jumper to put Dallas team ahead by 5, 54-49.
Veteran Skylar Diggins-Smith, back at full strength after missing most of the 2016 season with a knee injury, put up 7 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in the game. Another veteran, Glory Johnson, pulled down 14 rebounds — 10 on the defensive end of the court — and added 9 points to the score. And Allisha Gray, another rookie from the South Carolina champion team, tallied 4 rebounds and 11 points, while veteran Theresa Plaisance scored 10.
While it was a satisfying opening the game, the Wings are just getting started for this season. After moving here from Tulsa last year — and changing names in the process — the team posted an 11-23 season record, going 8-8 in Western Conference play. This year, after having a chance to settle in and adding some top rookies to the roster, the Wings are looking to start building what coaches and players alike are calling “a championship culture.”
Bridget Pettis, a college basketball standout at the University of Florida who spent eight years playing in the WNBA for first the Phoenix Mercury and then the Indiana Fever, joined the Wings — then known as the Tulsa Shock — as assistant coach in 2014. This week she talked to Dallas Voice about the Wings’ 2017 and what it will take to create that championship culture.
A key part of that culture, Pettis said, is the team’s fans. “One of the big impacts that the move from Tulsa to the Dallas area had is on our fan base. I think that right of the bat, the support [in Dallas] was amazing, and the team has been settling in better this year,” Pettis said. “The fans were amazing last year while we came off a growing season. This year, we expect even more [fan support], especially with a much more improved team.”
After going 1-1 in preseason play and coming from behind to beat the Mercury in Phoenix, Pettis said the key to keeping that momentum going is to “take advantage of our home court,” College Park Center, on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, 600 S. Center St.
And again, she said, the fans are key. “Our fans make it very challenging for teams to come into our house and win,” she said, adding that a “hard-nosed defensive and high-tempo scoring team” give the Wings an edge.
Getting rookies like Davis and Gray on the team is certainly a plus, but Pettis said that the team’s veterans will provide the necessary leadership.
“Having Skylar back healthy alongside the rest of the veterans, we are looking to show improvement not only on the offensive end of that floor, but on the defensive end as well. [Add in] five incredible rookie talents, and we are expecting to compete with the best of them.”
Among the rookies, Pettis said she expects Davis to step up as a team leader.
“Kaela Davis is a very skilled talent, and she is going to be a player that can make a instant impact in this league if she continues to put the work in,” Pettis said. But, she added, “We try not to put a lot of pressure on the rookies and leave room for them to just play, have fun and the continue to develop and learn to compete at this level.”
But it’s going to take everybody pulling together — players, coaches and fans alike — to create the culture that will bring a WNBA championship home to Dallas, the coach said.
“Creating a championship culture means taking this WNBA experience to heart and making sure every member of this Dallas Wings organization is offering up their best attitude and efforts enroute to being champions,” Pettis said. “From weight training to getting extra shoots in, everyone is doing it for the bigger goal and that’s to one day be WNBA champions.”
Dallas Wings play their 2017 home opener Saturday night, May 20, at College Park Center. Tickets range from $15-$50, and are available online at Wings.WNBA.com, at the Box Office at College Park Center, and by phone at 817-272-9595. The game will be televised on the Fox Sports Southwest network.
For the Dallas Wings complete 2017 schedule and the schedule of televised games, visit Wings.WNBA.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 19, 2017.