WNBA May Turn To Meyers, Woodard

By Off the BASN Sports Wire
Updated: October 27, 2004

Lynnette Woodard

NEW YORK — The WNBA made an inside move when it hired Val Ackerman as league president eight years ago. But it may be time to go outside to find her successor.

Ackerman, who announced recently that she would resign, effective in February, to spend more time with her family, was the right hire in August 1996 to help launch the NBA-operated women’s league, which began play the following summer.

She had joined the NBA as a staff lawyer in 1988 and held several other front-office positions where she had the favor of commissioner David Stern and the respect of NBA teams.

The native of Pennington, N.J., who played at the University of Virginia, also had rapport with women’s college basketball coaches and officials of USA Basketball, the sport’s national governing body.

Should Stern and other executives want another insider, Ann Sarnoff, the WNBA’s chief operating officer, who handles the day-to-day business operations, would probably be the front-runner.

Another strong inside candidate would be Sarnoff’s predecessor, Paula Hanson, who returned to her hometown of Denver in January in the newly created post of senior vice president for WNBA team business developments.

However, some believe the WNBA may need an outsider with a strong basketball background to hold the title of president while others handle the business operations.

Several league coaches, including Houston’s Van Chancellor, think an excellent choice would be Ann Meyers, the Hall of Famer and former UCLA star who broadcasts WNBA and college games on ESPN and ABC.

But a move east from Los Angeles might be difficult for Meyers, a single mother with two school-age children who was married to the late baseball Hall of Famer Don Drysdale.

“I think we need someone who is either single or with grown children because of the time constraints of the job,” Meyers said when asked to describe the ideal candidate.

The next WNBA president also “needs to have a basketball reputation and be dynamic in front of large audiences,” Meyers said. She added that she “wouldn’t be averse to a male getting the job if he’s the right person, such as Ty Votaw, the commissioner of the LPGA in golf.”

One outsider with solid credentials is former Kansas star Lynette Woodard, the all-time women’s college scoring leader with 3,649 points, who was inducted last month into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Meyers agreed that Woodard would be an excellent candidate.

When asked about her interest in succeeding Ackerman should the NBA approach her, Woodard replied: “Wow, I’d love that. What a great way to help the game. Oh, I’d definitely be interested, no question.”

Ackerman said last week that her successor needs to enlarge the fan base and emphasize the importance of player-fan connections.

Woodard, who also played for the Harlem Globetrotters, is skilled at selling the game.

Her resume, which includes an Olympic gold medal, all-American honors, and a stint in the WNBA, would easily gain her the respect of the league veterans.

Woodard also is familiar with the current generation of college stars, having been an assistant coach at her alma mater and run the program for several months last season.

And she knows business. She is a former New York stockbroker and currently a financial consultant for the A.G. Edwards brokerage firm in Wichita, Kan.

Besides Woodard, here are a few other women who belong on the initial list of the search committee Ackerman will head:

Carol Blazejowski of the New York Liberty, Karen Bryant of the Seattle Storm, and Kelly Krauskopf of the Indiana Fever, all of whom are team executives; Beth Bass, chief executive officer of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association; Chris Plonsky, senior associate athletic director at the University of Texas; Linda Bruno, commissioner of the Atlantic Ten Conference; Carol Callan, a USA Basketball executive; Patty Viverito, commissioner of the Gateway Football Conference; and Amy Love, a member of the San Jose Sports Authority’s board of directors and founder of Real Sports magazine.