December 11, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) Pam Wheeler has watched the WNBA players' union grow up over her time as the director of operations. Now she'll have to watch from afar.

Wheeler was informed last week by Michele Roberts, the new NBA player's association executive director, that the union was going in a different direction. Wheeler will end her tenure with the organization later this month.

''It's like a child, you've seen grow up from infancy and now it's a teenager,'' Wheeler said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. ''Sometimes it's best for change.''

In her 15 years at the union, Wheeler has worked on four WNBA collective bargaining agreements, including the current one which was signed earlier this year. Before the first CBA in 1999 there were no minimum salaries, no free agency, no guaranteed contracts, no revenue sharing, no year-round health benefits, no maternity plan and no retirement plan.

But Wheeler helped changed that.

''It was a groundbreaking event when WNBA players organized and collective bargaining became a reality in women's pro sports,'' said former WNBA president Val Ackerman. ''Pam was a part of history.''

Now the players have a lot more than those early days.

''Pam has overseen the day to day operations of the WNBPA for over a decade and a half, during which she created a solid foundation for the union's future,'' said Roberts. ''Her professionalism has been acknowledged by those on both sides of the labor management aisle. We wish her all the best.''

Roberts has been appointed as interim director of operations for the WNBPA until a replacement for Wheeler is hired. Former WNBPA vice president Ruth Riley will lead an advisory committee that will help put together the strategic steps the union should take to ensure its security and future success.

''Pam helped lead the WNBPA through four rounds of collective bargaining negotiations and her contributions have been immeasurable,'' WNBPA president Tamika Catchings said. ''On behalf of the players we wish her the best in all of her future endeavors, and we are excited about the new direction and future of our union. ''Wheeler wasn't sure what she was going to do next.

''There aren't many fledgling leagues out there with similar situations to the WNBA,'' she said. ''But I do know I'll still be rooting for the WNBA players.''

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