Meadors hopes Dream rebound to win elusive title

The old coach knows the clock is ticking, and somewhere in the back of her mind has to be the idea that this could be her last and best chance to achieve something that has almost always seemed to elude her.

Marynell Meadors is a 67-year-old woman who has been a basketball coach for 36 years and has made a name for herself building and rebuilding struggling women’s teams and programs. As coach and general manager of the Dream, Meadors has transformed a team that was 4-30 two years ago and placed it in the WNBA finals.

But now she wants more. She wants to win a championship. That is the thing that drives her. It is the reason why she has looked emotionally and physically drained after each of the Dream’s two losses to Seattle in the WNBA finals.

The Dream can extend their season and keep Meadors' hopes of being a champion alive with a victory against Seattle on Thursday night in Game 3 at Philips Arena.

“We are three [wins] away, and that is what it boils down to,” Meadors said. “To be this close is amazing. We are right there, and all we have to do is take advantage of it.”

Dream trainer Kim Moseley, who has known Meadors for 21 years, said the coach knows she and the Dream have a special opportunity.

“You don’t get too many of these chances,” Moseley said. “You have to seize the moment while you are trying to grasp that golden ring.”

Chasing championships has been a way of life for Meadors.

She is one of the more successful women’s basketball coaches ever with a record of 495-297 in her 26 years as a college coach, first with Tennessee Tech (1970-86) and then with Florida State (1986-96). Yet, Meadors’ college teams never won more than conference championships.

Meadors was the head coach of the 1989 gold-medal U.S. Olympic Festival East team, but this chance with the Dream is special for Meadors because she could win a championship on her own terms with her own players.

“This means everything,” she said. “Basketball-wise it means being the best team in 2010, and business-wise it means a lot to ticket sales and getting sponsors. We’re the engine that drives this whole thing.”

In retrospect, Meadors is surprised that everything has come together so fast for the Dream. A person known for constantly tinkering and tweaking things, she has built this team almost exactly the way she wants it, and its play is a reflection of her competitive personality.

The Dream have a young, talented player in guard Angel McCoughtry, who has the determination and the skills to single-handedly shoot a team to victory. The team’s second-best player, guard Iziane Castro Marques, has the skills and the gamesmanship to pick up the slack almost every night when McCoughtry has an off-game. The inside game, led by forward Sancho Lyttle and center Erika de Souza, is solid, but not spectacular. The bench makes good contributions game-in and game-out.

“What Marynell has talked about is how this team deserves [a championship], and how she has never ever been around a team that gets along so well,” Moseley said.

The only thing the Dream are missing, which has been a factor in the finals, is championship experience.

“There is no way to get experience, but to play,” Meadors said.

So, Meadors hopes that defense and desire carry the day as they have all season.

And if that doesn’t work, then she’ll have to hope that her adjustments from Game 2 to Game 3 give the Dream the spark they need. Starting guard Armintie Price, who sprained her ankle in Tuesday’s game, is a game-time decision, but players hope to play well without her.

“It’s not over until they win three games or we win three games,” Lyttle said.