By SARA ANDERSON
Frank Layden is realizing that after 34 years of coaching, his job is not getting any easier.
“I am trying to cram years of what I know is the right way to play this game,” Layden said about teaching his players basketball. “I’m trying to cheat a little. I’m fooling with zones and changing defenses. I’m trying to do everything.”
While Layden is scrambling to help the Starzz win a couple of games before the season ends, he knows his team needs to improve its decision making.
“They showed me they are getting closer to winning,” Layden said. “We’re playing as hard as we can. Now, we’re not playing as smart as I would like.”
Layden, who has a 1-6 record with Utah, is disappointed that his team has lost a number of close games.
“I thought that we’ve been beating ourselves, and that is the worst kind of loss that you can have,” Layden said.
Beating themselves is what the Starzz did Monday night as they faced the Detroit Shock in the Delta Center.
Utah, who started forward Elena Baranova for the first time since spraining her ankle July 19, jumped out to a 19-14 lead.
In the first half Baranova hit back-to-back 3-pointers and demonstrated why she leads Utah in scoring and rebounding.
“She is our best player,” Layden said after coaching Baranova for the first time. “She played with even a little more energy than I would have expected.”
The Starzz could not hold their lead as center Margo Dydek picked up her third foul and was forced to sit on the bench for much of the half. With Dydek out the Shock penetrated the middle and they tied score 30-30 at the half.
The Shock, behind a WNBA record 21 rebounds from guard Cindy Brown, lead Utah for most of the second half.
Down 69-64 with three minutes left, Baranova made a three-point play and cut the Shock’s lead to two.
Utah tied the game at 73-73 on two Wendy Palmer free throws with one minute remaining. Kim Williams had the chance to give Utah the lead, but her 3-pointer fell short as Detroit took the game 77-73.
The Shock had five players in double figures, and were lead by guard Korie Hlede who had 20 points. Utah’s Baranova and Williams both had 15 points to lead the Starzz.
Utah, who has matched its 7-19 record from last season, feel that is it only a matter of time before they start winning,
“We just need time and practice together,” Dydek said.
Utah guard Chantel Tremitiere agrees with her teammate and feels the Starzz will be much improved next season.
“Utah is going to be a good team,” Tremitiere said. “I think that the day coach Layden was hired a lot of other coaches in the league were getting a little scared. And we’re just going to try to implement the things that he is putting in and it is going to make us a successful team.”