A budding dynasty in Phoenix

By Odeen Domingo
Updated: October 12, 2009

Mercury coach Corey Gaines (right) sprays champagne on his players during the locker-room celebration after winning the WNBA title in Phoenix.

Mercury coach Corey Gaines (right) sprays champagne on his players during the locker-room celebration after winning the WNBA title in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — He was asked five questions. That’s it.

That’s all the time Mercury coach Corey Gaines had to enjoy the WNBA championship before he was asked: “Can this team repeat?”

“Wow,” Gaines said. “I didn’t even get 30 minutes.”

That’s what happens when you coach a team that won a second WNBA title in three seasons after a 94-86 win against the Indiana Fever in a series-deciding Game 5 on Friday night at US Airways Center .

A team that finished 30-15 overall and has the same core of players — Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Tangela Smith and Penny Taylor — when it won it all in 2007. It’s a team that should have its core intact for another title run next season.

Gaines didn’t answer the question directly, saying next season’s team will be “good,” but he did say he and Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale will make additions in the off-season.

Gaines said they’ll look for a “banger” near the basket, a player with some height and strength who will grab defensive rebounds and start the Mercury’s fast-break offense or battle for an offensive rebound for a second chance to score.

Taurasi, the league and WNBA Finals MVP, kept it simple when asked Friday what the Mercury need to do to repeat.

“Sign Penny Taylor,” Taurasi said. “What about that?”

She was joking. But that isn’t far from the truth.

Pondexter said Taylor, who decided not to play in 2008 to concentrate on playing for Australia in the Beijing Olympics, gave the Mercury a much-needed push after coming back from injury to sign with the Mercury near the season’s midpoint.

“I know in my heart every championship team that won has three great players,” Pondexter said. “And when Penny came back, it solidified everything for us. And she pushed us to a whole other level. And without her, I don’t know if this is possible.”

Taylor as well as other players stepped up to help the Mercury win in a postseason where every series was pushed to the brink.

Taurasi said repeating is hard but if it happens, it’ll start and end with Gaines, the Mercury’s second-year coach.

“Talk about a man who improved more than any player or any coach in this league from Year 1 to Year 2, he’s been amazing this year,” Taurasi said. “He came in with that toughness and grit. He was the one who was the most upset about last summer. And from Day 1 in training camp, that’s how he was every day in practice.”