In honor of the 25th anniversary of the three-time WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury franchise, PhoenixMercury.com is reminiscing with those who have made this team a success over the past quarter century.
From broadcasting the first-ever Mercury game to winning the team’s first title as general manager, Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale has witnessed the exponential growth, the tireless support and the incredible achievements of one of the WNBA’s original franchises.
THE PHOENIX MERCURY FRANCHISE WAS FOUNDED IN 1997. WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE LIFE OF ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE IN 1997?
Meyers Drysdale: “The ’96 Olympics had happened and I was working for ESPN. I had done the broadcast for that ’96 team as they were traveling around the country. There was talk about maybe having another league. The ABL was already going on. NBC came to me and asked me if I would be their main analyst for the new league that was going to start in ’97 with the WNBA. NBC did the first broadcast for the very first Phoenix Mercury game against the Charlotte Sting. A lot of excitement. The arena was packed and it was loud. I couldn’t believe how loud it was. The fans were so involved and the X-Factor was created. It was special to be in Phoenix to watch them play.”
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SWTICH FROM BROADCASTER TO GENERAL MANGER IN 2007?
“When I was asked by new ownership, which was Robert [Sarver], to come in and be the general manager of the Mercury, I was still broadcasting for ESPN. Certainly, I was very well known in the game, but when he came to me, it was a no-brainer because I knew what a good franchise Phoenix was. At that time, Diana was on the team and Paul Westhead was the coach. Corey Gaines was the assistant. I had broadcast some men’s Loyola games when Paul was there. Being from Southern California, I knew who Paul was. I knew Corey Gaines. He had gone to UCLA for a little bit, then went to Loyola. To me it was an opportunity of a lifetime that somebody gave me and I was just so grateful to be able to come to Phoenix.”
AS ONE OF THE GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYERS THE GAME HAS EVER SEEN, HOW EXCITING HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO WATCH THE WNBA AND THE PHOENIX MERCURY BLOSSOM THROUGHOUT THE PAST 25 YEARS?
“To watch the kids come out of college, they’re so talented today. I’m in awe of these women, honestly. I’m so proud of them to be able to have a career in something that they love to do and that they’re exceptional at. It just shows you the strength of women athletes and their focus. Not only are they leading our organization, they’ve been very supportive of social issues. The women of the WNBA and in Phoenix, they’re not afraid to make a statement and stand behind what they believe. I know how important it is to the community. The fans that we have, they’re the ones who make it happen — the relationships that they have with the players. Our fans have been tremendously loyal, as have all the fans throughout the WNBA. Whether you’re in Seattle, whether you’re in Washington, whether you’re in Minnesota, the fans are so supportive of the game and we’re getting new fans all the time. That’s what you want.”
THROUGHOUT YOUR TIME AS GENERAL MANAGER, VICE PREISDENT AND BROADCASTER, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE MEMORY WITH THE MERCURY?
“2007. That’s the year I went into the FIBA Hall of Fame with Bill Russell and Dean Smith. My children went back to Spain with me for that and we had flown back to make the final game to win the championship in 2007. It was my first year. I did not do everything correctly. It wasn’t easy all of the time, but (I was) around such wonderful people that played hard and gave it their all. To watch those talented young women be able to win their first WNBA NBA championship in Phoenix, to be a part of that was pretty special to share with my children.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KEY HAS BEEN TO KEEP THIS FRANCHISE SO SUCCESSFUL OVER THE PAST 25 YEARS?
“It’s caring. Caring about the franchise. The players care about it. The staff cares about it. From the inside, I think that that’s what I’ve been proud of watching. To know that the Mercury are a name that is known in Phoenix, I’m happy that this is an organization that is still looked upon. We can get a lot of stuff done and make a difference. We make a difference in the community. We really do. When you get somebody like Diana Taurasi and Penny (Taylor), we’ve just had some unbelievable players that have come through.”