Mystics coach Mike Thibault has apologized via social media to Minnesota Lynx and coach Cheryl Reeve after comments he made about their travel issues to Sunday’s game at Washington, D.C.
Thibault said he was “tired of hearing” about the WNBA’s travel delays and didn’t feel sorry for the Lynx.
“My apologies to @LynxCoachReeve and @minnesotalynx for my reaction to the question posed to me during my pre-game press conference today,” Thibault wrote on Twitter. “That’s not who I am and I should have answered the question without the extra drama.”
My apologies to @LynxCoachReeve and @minnesotalynx for my reaction to the question posed to me at my pre-match press conference today. That’s not who I am and I should have answered the question without the extra drama.
—Mike Thibault (@coachthibault) July 17, 2022
The Lynx played back-to-back games Thursday and Friday in Minneapolis and Indianapolis, then had flight issues Saturday that delayed their arrival until midnight for Sunday’s 3 p.m. tip-off. They lost to the Mystics 70-57.
Reeve said she contacted the league before Sunday’s game when the trouble started on Saturday, but no one responded at first. She said when the league finally responded to the team, it was to suggest alternative flights, which the Lynx had already figured out.
“I’ve been in this league a long time, and if you do this long enough, you’re going to find yourself in these situations,” Reeve said. “I think in terms of the challenges that arise, it’s all about leadership and your ability to collectively work through this situation. Probably the biggest disappointment has been the lack of response. From our perspective , there was no communication with the Minnesota Lynx. It was an epic fail.
“It was leaked to me later, there had been communication with Washington. I alerted the league that we potentially had a brewing issue because I didn’t want them to find out on social media. I don’t think it’s okay for me to do that ‘I can’t control how other people treat us… I thought we deserved more respect than that We’re not happy we weren’t treated given consideration.
Thibault was also asked about WNBA travel delays ahead of Sunday’s game.
“I’m sick of hearing about them,” Thibault said, while miming as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “I’m sick of hearing about it on Twitter. It happens to every team. And I get it. Every team would like to feel completely refreshed. But they arrived last night. They didn’t play yesterday. I know it’s a long day, but everyone goes through it.
Thibault then recounted his first year in the league, 2003, when he was Connecticut’s coach. The Sun hosted a game in Cleveland that was canceled by a blackout that affected many eastern states. The Sun took a bus to Connecticut, and the next morning they took another bus to New York for an afternoon game at Madison Square Garden.
“Nobody felt sorry for us. …and we won,” Thibault said. “We just haven’t talked about it with our players. It’s just life. I would like to be sorry for [the Lynx]. But I’m sorry, I don’t.”
Asked about the possibility of the league contacting Washington to move the game to Sunday night, Thibault said: “We almost sold out today, and it’s not like they were coming in this morning. I know it was a long day of travel; we all really weren’t able to accommodate them unless there was a much more extenuating circumstance than there currently is.
After the match, however, Thibault posted on Twitter that he was sorry for the remarks, and Reeve tweeted saying there were no hard feelings.
“It’s okay, coach,” she wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening. “We have years of respect behind us – this situation won’t change that.”
Travel issues have become more prominent and frequently mentioned by WNBA players and coaches in recent years. The WNBA airs commercials for regular season games. The New York Liberty was fined $500,000 for chartering flights to away games during the 2021 season because it violated league rules.
Charters are generally not allowed due to fears that they will create a competitive advantage for teams whose owners can afford them. However, the league in 2019 added charters for playoff games where teams would cross multiple time zones with only one day between games.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert also announced ahead of the July 10 All-Star Game that the league would charter all flights to the WNBA Finals beginning this year.