BRADENTON — A former player and head pro and college coach, Shell Dailey has seen women’s basketball from every angle.
Now 46, the 6-foot-3 Dailey played at Texas under Hall of Famer Jody Conradt, who coached the Longhorns for 31 years until her retirement in 2007.
At Texas, Dailey never lost a conference game, winning four Southwest Conference titles, reached the NCAA Tournament every year and played in the national championship game as a freshman against Rutgers.
She is a former head coach of the WNBA San Antonio Silver Stars and an assistant in the old women’s ABL for Nashville. In the college ranks, she was head coach at TCU and assistant at South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Prior to becoming Women’s Basketball Coordinator at IMG Academy several years ago, Dailey was an assistant at Florida and coached Southeast High products Depree Bowden and Briana Phillips along with Sharielle Smith, who played two years for the Noles.
Bradenton Herald Sports Writer Alan Dell sits down with her for a candid interview:
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in women’s basketball over the past 25 years?
The players are not as fundamentally sound. A lot of players are getting away with things because of their skill level but don’t understand the game as well.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the women’s game?
I would like the girls to understand the history of the game and understand the people who sacrificed for the professional league and be students of the game. Also, improve fundamentals.
How would you describe the state of women’s pro basketball?
It’s a slow process. Will they ever make millions? Who knows. In a few of the markets they have the support they need as far as crowds and when you go there you see 10,000 people. Go to other markets and see only 5,000. It all depends on the longevity of the league.
Is it more profitable for women to play overseas?
Definitely. It’s always been that way. It’s quadruple the amount (salary) over there. They have huge fan support and have dollars pumped into it. That’s why most all of the WNBA players play over there.
Can you make a living playing in the WNBA?
Rookies who are a high pick usually make about $44,000 and don’t forget that is for only three months, which is a good start for any college kid. There is an opportunity to make about $250,000 depending on where they are drafted, which also determines their value in Europe.
You coached college and pro players. What is the biggest difference?
Women have not been professional athletes in that sport for a long time, so my strategy was similar. The only thing different was that they were getting paid, but the skill level was about the same as a Division I player. Also, they haven’t been spoiled. You need good people within the system, and that’s why it’s important you are drafting good character.
What is the big difference between women players in Europe and the United States?
A lot like the men. European women players are more fundamentally sound, but they would have to adjust to the more physical style here and the speed of the game.
You graduated high school in 1982 and finished at Texas in 1985. What was that experience like for you?
Girls sports in the Dallas area have always been great, and, fortunately, I was one of the elite players so it was fun. I was 6-3 and that was pretty tall then.
Will the women’s game in the WNBA ever be the same as the NBA?
Not yet. You are dealing with two different creatures. The male is always going to be stronger. I can’t even compare the two. They are so different.
A lot of people said Connecticut’s back-to-back perfect seasons were bad for women’s basketball because it shows there is little parity. Do you agree?
I don’t agree because I believe over the last thirty years in women’s basketball there has been parity. Now schools are putting more money into recruiting, and UConn is a product of that. So I will not say what they did is bad.
Why was coach Conradt the biggest influence on your career?
I can never say enough about her. She taught us the value of hard work and character. She was relentless. Other coaches I knew did not measure up to her. There was not a day when she did not show professionalism and did not show a caring heart.
You coached three standout female players from Manatee County. What were they like?
Depree Bowden was a dream to coach. She was smart, very focused and athletic. You could tell her to get the job done, and she would get it done. Sharielle was headstrong at times, but once she understood what she needed to do and stay within her abilities was fine. Briana was more of a banger style player, who did have some good shooting range.
What do you hope to get accomplished with women’s basketball at IMG?
We want the outside world to know there is a girls program here for players who want to get better and not just for professionals. We have 16 girls who left here and played Division I basketball.