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Meyers Makes Executive Decision

Former playing great will leave broadcasting and become general manager of WNBA's Mercury and vice president of NBA's Suns.

September 13, 2006|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

After years of trying, the WNBA finally has lured one of the most recognizable names in women's basketball out of the broadcast booth.

Ann Meyers Drysdale -- four-time UCLA All-American, the only woman to sign a free-agent contract and try out for an NBA team, widow of Dodgers' Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale, and an award-winning commentator -- signed on Tuesday to become general manager of the Phoenix Mercury.

"I want to compete again," said Meyers, a 51-year-old mother of three teenage boys and a broadcaster since the Indiana Pacers cut her in training camp in 1979. "The broadcasting has been an unbelievable ride. It's been a great opportunity for me to stay close to the game and see the women's game grow.

"But this is an opportunity to be part of a winning franchise."

WNBA teams had pursued the Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer since the NBA-supported league was founded 10 years ago, Meyers said, but she resisted, focusing attention on rearing sons Don Jr., 19; Darren, 17, and Drew, 13.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 14, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Basketball: An article in Wednesday's Sports section on Ann Meyers Drysdale's taking the general manager position with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury said she had three sons. Her youngest child, Drew, 13, is a girl.

"Don always told me, 'Never say no; always keep your options open,' " Meyers said of her late husband, who died in 1993. "And believe me, I didn't go knocking on the door. This just kind of fell into my lap. It reminds me a lot of when I tried out with the Pacers. To me, it's the opportunity of a lifetime."

The timing was right, she added, "because I talked to the kids about it and they were excited. I think they heard the excitement in my voice."

She takes over a team that has not made the playoffs since 2000. The Mercury, despite setting league scoring records, was 18-16 last season under first-year Coach Paul Westhead and is 51-51 in three seasons since drafting All-WNBA guard Diana Taurasi, who averaged a league-record 25.3 points last season.

Robert Sarver, managing partner of the Phoenix Suns, said he had lobbied Meyers for more than a year and a half to replace Seth Sulka, who resigned Sept. 1. Meyers also will be a vice president with the Suns.

"We're pretty jazzed," said Sarver, who has overseen the Suns' turnaround from missing the NBA playoffs three seasons ago to reaching the Western Conference finals the last two. "The more I got to know her, the more I knew that she would be great for our organization."

He cited Meyers' "pretty good track record of being a winner."

Meyers, sister of former UCLA basketball All-American Dave Meyers, was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA. She led the Bruins to a national championship in 1978, was the first woman enshrined in the school's athletic hall of fame and had her No. 15 jersey retired.

As part of the first U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, she won a silver medal at the Montreal Games in 1976. In 1978, she was the first player drafted in the Women's Professional Basketball League and was the league's most valuable player.

"Hopefully, I can bring respect," Meyers said of her latest endeavor. "My name means a lot to me. Meyers Drysdale is very important to me, and I think that people have a lot of respect for it. I would never want to embarrass it, and I'm coming into this with my eyes wide open....

"Certainly, we've got to make some changes. That's up to me to do a lot of research, a lot of homework. It's a big learning curve for me."

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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