Seattle Storm’s Brian Agler on Traveling Overseas
Why it’s necessary.
Brian Agler, head coach and Director of Player Personnel of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, is widely considered to be one of the hardest working coaches in the women’s game. During the WNBA’s offseason from October through March, Agler makes it a priority of his to visit Storm players overseas in various countries. One of the most successful coaches in women’s basketball, Agler shares with us his reasons for making these trips and why they are so vital for the continuity of his club. – Ben Y.
by Brian Agler / @brian_agler
I go to Europe multiple times each WNBA offseason for several reasons. They began when I first started coaching in Seattle (although, truthfully, my first trip was when I was in Minnesota and went to see Ann Wauters play when she was a youngster).
Initially, these trips started for the basic reason of connecting with our own players and to scout and recruit talent; I still work hard in these areas. These trips have helped build our roster.
The ‘09-10 trips secured LeCoe Willingham, Jana Vesela and Svetlana Abrosimova—all key players to our 2010 WNBA Championship. But I believe the greatest purpose and benefit to our organization is to gain a greater perspective to the “World of Women’s Basketball” as our players live it. In return, it helps me relate better to our players as members of the Storm and to the business decisions they have to make.
Like it or not, believe it or not, the majority of the players in the WNBA have at least two basketball “loyalties”: The WNBA team they are contracted with and the international professional team that they are contracted with. The best players also have National Team obligations or competitions to factor in, so individuals like Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson have to balance their obligations between three organizations.
This forces our organization to communicate with players and their representatives (agents) to work out a balance and a workable schedule. It is always a negotiation and a give and take. Making these trips to Europe helps me get a greater understanding of our players’ obligations.
Most WNBA players make more money in Europe than they make in the WNBA. These salaries from the European teams come from wealthy owners, corporate sponsorship and even government funds. Internationally in contract negotiations, EVERYTHING is negotiable from salary, living arrangements, automobile, airline tickets for multiple people, etc.
Why is all this relevant, one may ask? Because it affects how WNBA teams put together their rosters and it shows that the players in the WNBA play in “our league” for the love of the game, the competition, playing in front of their friends and family, and playing in front of the US media just as much as they do for earning a paycheck.
Most WNBA players make two to 10 times as much playing internationally as they earn here. This is why many international players choose not to play in the WNBA. Furthermore, it’s also why I respect individuals like Lauren Jackson so much; she plays in the WNBA primarily for the competition.
So, how does all of this affect WNBA teams? Players may choose not to play in the WNBA because it doesn’t “hit” their pocketbook as hard. Or, they may choose to rest during the summer; they play almost all year so there are also health and injury issues to consider. For those who play both overseas and in the WNBA, it affects when they arrive into training camp. All these issues have to be taken into consideration in decision making, both long term and short term by all parties.
Basically, the players’ careers are their business. The more I study and respect it, the better job I can do at molding our team and working with all parties involved to make things run as efficiently as possible for the players and the Storm organization. I truly don’t believe I would have them same kind of grasp and respect for the world of women’s basketball if I didn’t make these trips internationally.
My travel helps us at the Storm create a better understanding and an elite working environment for everyone involved.