How the Atlanta Dream rebuilt a broken WNBA franchise

M.A. VoepelESPN.comMay 11, 2023, 09:45 AM ET9 Minute Read

Former No. 1 draft pick Rhyne Howard, coach Tanisha Wright and the Atlanta Dream went 14-22 last season. Owner Larry Gottesdiener believes 2022 is “the team that turned the culture of this organization around.”Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

When they joined the Atlanta Dream in October 2021, coach Tanisha Wright and general manager Dan Padover took stock of their new WNBA team. It didn’t take long.

Atlanta had just three players under contract — one of whom had missed two-thirds of the 2021 season under suspension — and a 2022 first-round draft pick. The Dream had gone a combined 23-65 from 2019 to 2021 and had a contentious separation from one of its former owners.

The mission for the new ownership group, front office and coaches was nothing short of an overhaul. But how do you fix a broken franchise? It starts from the top.

“Our league deserves owners who are just as passionate about this as we are,” said Wright, who played in the WNBA for 14 seasons before becoming a coach. “I think that’s exactly the type of ownership group that we have now: They’re excited not only for the Atlanta Dream, but for the growth of the WNBA as a whole.”

The Dream finished 2022 at 14-22 and just out of the playoffs, and No. 1 draft pick Rhyne Howard was WNBA Rookie of the Year. In the offseason, Atlanta had a handful of headlining acquisitions, including Allisha Gray, the 2017 rookie of the year. And entering the 2023 season — which opens for the Dream on May 20 (1 p.m. ET, ABC) at the Dallas Wings — there’s an energetic feeling of potential.

“We know how hard we can work and what we can accomplish,” Howard said. “It’s only up from here. It’s gonna be a good journey.”

The vibe is much different than the summer of 2020, when the Dream organization seemed in crisis as the players’ relationship with then-Atlanta ownership became fractured beyond repair.

Real estate investor Larry Gottesdiener knew this when he bought the Dream in February 2021 with an ownership trio that included former WNBA player Renee Montgomery.

Gottesdiener has made a fortune looking at spaces, imagining what could be there and then making it happen. The Dream, who entered the WNBA in 2008 as an expansion franchise and made three trips to the WNBA Finals between 2010 and 2013, weren’t literally building from the ground up in 2021, but it felt like it.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what it was going to take,” said Gottesdiener, founder and chairman of Northland Investment Corporation. “For us to jump in was a bit of a combination of wanting to stand up and take a position after everything that had been happening in the world, and of course, I love basketball.

“I am a team-builder. I have a history of putting together really quality teams that get stuff done. The other thing I provide is the balance sheet. Look, this is still a nascent league, and I always say, ‘Where was the NBA in the 1970s?’ I felt, ‘This is about investment.’ “


Read More:
How the Atlanta Dream rebuilt a broken WNBA franchise 2023-05-11 14:06:40

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments