NEW YORK (AP) — Dan Hughes found himself in a new situation this postseason.
The veteran WNBA coach had a week to get ready for the playoffs after No. 1 Seattle earned a double bye to the semifinals. Atlanta got the other bye, a first for both franchises.
Hughes, who has been coaching in the league for 17 years, reached out to some of his NBA colleagues for advice on how to handle the extra preparation time.
“I talked to some people, friends in the NBA who have gone through this,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “We took the early part of the week to rest and focused on ourselves. It’s been a productive week.”
The WNBA changed its playoff format in 2016, and Minnesota and Los Angeles were the top two seeds the last two seasons, so the extra time was new to both coaches and teams. Hughes had joked earlier this month that he might reach out to Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve for advice, but there was a chance the two teams could meet in the postseason.
Atlanta’s first-year coach Nicki Collen took a similar philosophy to Hughes, giving her team some rest after the compact grinding season and focusing on what the Dream could do to improve.
“It was good to have a physical and mental break,” she said. “The players did come in and did a lot of individual work. We worked on sets that were good for us. It’s rare in this compact season that you get a chance to clean up little things and work on executing.”
While the Storm wrapped up the double-bye more than a week before the season ended, Atlanta needed a win in Las Vegas on the final day to secure the No. 2 seed.
“We talked about that game being our single elimination playoff game,” said Collen, who was honored as the AP coach of the year earlier this week. “I felt like when you’re talking about a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs too much, it was important for us to get that No. 2 seed and get to a series as opposed to playing in a single game.”
The Dream traveled home from Las Vegas on Monday and then Collen gave her team a day off Tuesday.
After competitive practices on Wednesday, the Storm and Dream took off Thursday and got back to work Friday starting game prep for their opponents this weekend. Seattle faces Phoenix while Atlanta plays Washington. Neither team knew until Thursday night who they would face.
“In this league if you do three days prep it’s too much, so we were back to our normal two-day prep work,” Collen said.
Having extended time off reminded Collen of her college coaching days when her teams had a break after the conference tournament before starting to prepare for the NCAAs.
“It’s a really good parallel,” she said. “You still have to get your rhythm back. We challenged our players today.”
Collen was an assistant for the Connecticut Sun last year, who lost in the second round single-elimination playoff game to Phoenix. The first-year coach knows that there is more room for error in a series where teams can make adjustments in between games.
“You have a chance now to clean up some mistakes that will happen as opposed to the one game format,” Collen said.
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