Mystics' Darsch opts to quit


Facing an increasingly angry fan base, Nancy Darsch abruptly resigned yesterday after a season and half as coach of the WNBA's Washington Mystics.

Former NBA player and coach Darrell Walker will take over the team on an interim basis, becoming the fourth coach in the team's nearly three seasons. His appointment was announced yesterday by the team, which is owned by the league and operated by the Washington Wizards.

Walker, who played for the Bullets, among other NBA teams, finished the last NBA season as interim coach of the Wizards, replacing Gar Heard on Jan. 31, and was named the team's player personnel director at the end of the season.

Wes Unseld, the Wizards general manager and Mystics executive vice president, said in a phone interview that Walker, who was the Toronto Raptors' first coach, will return to his Wizards' duties after the Mystics' season concludes next month.

Walker, who will retain Darsch's assistant coaches, Tyrone Beaman and Stephanie Rivera, has no experience coaching in women's basketball.

"Darrell can coach basketball," said Unseld. "The triple post offense [which the Mystics run] is something that he knows from when he played in Chicago. He was known as a defensive player, and that's where we've been getting beaten, so he'll step in and do well."

Darsch, who compiled a 21-31 in Washington, stepped down a day after the Mystics - who, at 9-11 are in fifth place in the eight-team Eastern Conference - beat Miami on Thursday night.

However, the team dropped a 25-point decision at home to the expansion Indiana Fever Wednesday night, and a number of fans booed her and held up signs calling for Darsch's dismissal.

In a statement released by the team, Darsch said she "enjoyed her time" with the team, adding, "I believe this team is poised to make the playoffs, and I wish them well."

Under Darsch, who spent two seasons coaching the New York Liberty before being fired after the 1998 season, the Mystics opened at 5-3, their best start.

However, the team has dropped five straight home games, including two to expansion teams, and has fallen one-half game behind Detroit, which holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.

In addition, a rift had developed between Darsch and Chamique Holdsclaw, last season's rookie of the year and the first player chosen in last year's draft.

Holdsclaw, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, said she was "humiliated" by Darsch's benching her down the stretch during a loss to Sacramento last month, adding that if the Mystics were to win, it would be because of the players, not Darsch.

The two smoothed over their differences, but a clear chill had developed and Darsch made reference to the team's "immaturity" after Wednesday's loss.

"In men's basketball and in women's basketball, we have immature people," said Unseld, adding that he would not have fired Darsch.

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