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Coach hoping for momentum

Harvey has no plan to replace herself, either

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The Utah Starzz have been through enough, says new head coach Candi Harvey, that she will not hire an assistant coach to replace herself.

"Knowing our team and how many changes they've been through, how they adapt to things, I think the best thing for right now is just to keep the team alone. If I see that doesn't work, then I'll make some changes, but I think we're in good shape right now," Harvey said Saturday before the team left for Portland and its 8 p.m. MDT encounter with the Fire in the Rose Garden.

Tammi Reiss, in her first season as an assistant, will be Harvey's only staff member. "Tammi and I have a great partnership, and we work very well together," Harvey said of the former Starzz player, still one of the more popular people to ever wear a Utah uniform.

Harvey said she had breakfast Saturday morning with Fred Williams, who suddenly resigned as coach Friday afternoon, leaving her in charge of a struggling team that finally played the way it's been expected to that night when it beat WNBA East leader Cleveland 73-69 in the Delta Center.

The 6-8 Starzz have not won two in a row all season and are 0-1 vs. the Fire, now 9-6 and standing in fourth place in the Western Conference after a 69-58 win Friday at home over Washington.

"He was really proud of the team," Harvey said of Williams' demeanor at their breakfast meeting. "(He was) proud of how hard they played and excited about seeing some things that he had taught and taught come to fruition for 40 minutes last night."

Williams watched the game from an unobtrusive spot in the Delta Center. He plans to stick around Salt Lake City for a while before deciding what he will do with his own future. "He's just going to just worry about Fred for a few days, which is very unusual for Fred to do," said Harvey. "He always thinks of everybody else first."

The Starzz must think of themselves, too, and trying to maintain the momentum that hit them in the last two games. Despite losing at Los Angeles Tuesday, they made obvious progress in playing together in that game, and the emotion of Friday's game had them scoring easily against the Rockers, the league's best defensive team, while playing good defense as well.

"Now, as a team, as I told them last night," said Harvey, "they've made the mistake of playing the way they're capable of playing. So now we know, and we've always known, but now we've actually seen, and the fans have seen, what they're capable of doing. They're just going to have to be mentally tough and work hard to continue to do that.

"It could just as easily go the other direction," she said, mindful that teams with coaching changes usually play well for at least the first game under a new administration. Her plan is to "just make the most and teach each day. We've got our backs to the wall here as far as making the playoffs. We can't look too far ahead; we literally have to prepare each day and make the most out of each day."

Portland rookie guard Jackie Stiles helped the Fire beat a two-game losing streak Saturday, scoring 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting. Mobile center Sylvia Crawley, forward Sophia Witherspoon and guard Tully Bevilaqua also scored in double figures Friday, and all three veterans have given the Starzz trouble with their quickness in their regular-season game as well as in a preseason game and last year.

Utah's next home game is Tuesday when the Western Confrerence-leading L.A. Sparks hit the Delta Center.

E-MAIL: lham@desnews.com