The situation is nothing new. The ingredients are all too familiar for Jeff House.
Take one budding franchise, add a few seasons of subpar performance and, last but not least, insert a new head coach in search of some of the top minds in the sport, all with the hopes of turning things around.
The rebuilding process has been tried by many, but the rate of success is low.
Chicago Sky assistant coach Jeff House talks with assistant coach Christie Sides, left, and head coach Pokey Chatman during a recent WNBA?game.
Photo courtesy of Gary Dineen Photography
House, who is in the midst of his first season as an assistant head coach for the Chicago Sky of the Women's National Basketball Association has, however, been tasked with helping to build a new franchise before and proven he knows what it takes to succeed.
"The Chicago Sky organization is only in its sixth year of existence," House said. "And I look at it the same way I did during my early days with the (New York) Liberty. This situation now really reminds me of being with New York.''
House came to the Liberty in 1998, first as a video coordinator and advance scout and later as an assistant coach, just one short year after the WNBA played its inaugural season. Prior to his joining the Liberty, he had coached in the high school and college ranks for a number of years with some of the more well known NBA coaches in recent memory, including both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.
Even before those coaching years, House got his start in the game of basketball right here in the area at Southwestern High School under coach Gunny Anderson.
"He came out of retirement during my junior and senior years," House recalled. "When I was a senior I hurt my ankle at the JCC tournament and was out for about nine games. During that time he really worked with me and that was when I decided that (coaching) might be something that I wanted to do with my life."
A season after joining the Liberty House and the team reached the WNBA Finals; in 2000 and then in 2002 they reached the league's championship game yet again.
All told, House's seven years with New York featured appearances in four Eastern Conference Championship series and three WNBA Finals.
After the successful stint with the Liberty, House left the professional game to join the University at Virginia women's basketball staff where he was named an assistant coach and the program's recruiting coordinator. During his tenure, the Cavaliers' recruiting classes consistently ranked among the nation's best - 10th in 2008, third in 2009 and 14th in 2010.
House noted that he very much enjoyed his time in the college game.
"I like the pro game," he said. "But having a chance to get into women's college basketball at a high level was very nice. It's a different relationship in college between the players and the coaches. With college there is a lot more that goes into the game, whereas in the pro game the focus is purely on basketball."
An added bonus of his time in Charlottesville was his participation with the Virginia Basketball Academy, a skills and development camp for kindergarten through eighth-graders. House, who still lives in Virginia, has been with the Academy for two years and maintains his relationship with the program to this day.
"An important thing for me is I still get to do a lot of teaching during the offseason," House said. "It is really nice to be involved with building character and shaping lives of the kids through the game of basketball."
But when Dana "Pokey'' Chatman, the former Louisiana State University women's basketball coach who led the Tigers to three-consecutive final four appearances, came looking for an assistant to help her with the Sky, House saw that the time was right to make the move back to professional basketball.
The transition, he added, was very easy.
"Pokey and I have very similar coaching philosophies," House said. "So I was fortunate to become a part of the team."
The players were also very welcoming of their newest coach.
"The group of players really welcomed me," he said. "Maybe it was because I was the old guy or maybe because I have had a lot of experience, but joining the team was made very easy because the players were so welcoming. It was very nice."
Together with Chatman and his fellow assistant coach Christie Sides, the Sky have shown marked improvement. Since the 2006 season Chicago has averaged a little over 12 wins per year. Now, just 14 games into the 2011-2012 season, the Sky have already won seven of their first 14 games.
The team's improved performance has caught local fan's attention, as evidenced by the record attendance that came to the arena during the latest victory over the Tulsa Shock.
"We're back to 7-7 now," House said. "We feel like we should have done better in a couple of games and could be at 9-5, but this organization has never finished over .500 or reached the playoffs and that's something we made a priority. We just have to hang on to that third or fourth playoff spot."
Given House's track record over his 25-plus years of coaching, a first-ever visit to the playoffs for the Sky wouldn't be all that surprising.