During his decade coaching the Connecticut Sun, Mike Thibault learned to appreciate how profesionally ready many UConn players seemed to be on draft.
And so, he entered the 2014 WNBA draft hoping to get UConn’s Stefanie Dolson or Bria Hartley for the Washington Mystics.
He ended with both.
“They know how to win. They expect to win. They practice every day to win,” Thibault said. “That is the mentality that has been instilled with them at UConn. And I would think the styles Geno and I use are somewhat close. They [UConn players] may learn some plays differently [in the WNBA}, but in terms of our expectations, our practices, the things we do, it’s very similar.
“In terms of myself, I know what I am getting [with UConn players]. They win. They are well-coached, well-prepared for this level.”
I had the chance to coax Mike Thibault, coach and GM of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, into some off-the-cuff analysis of UConn’s sophomore Breanna Stewart on Saturday.
Thibault, the former coach of the Connecticut Sun, has the most victories of any coach in WNBA history. He has served USA Basketball, most recently an assistant coach to Anne Donovan on the 2008 Olympic gold medal team.
I know very little about the technical aspects of basketball. But I can ask a question as good as anyone in the business. And I trust his judgment. He will attend Sunday’s game at Penn State, the third straight UConn game he’s seen.
That’s good enough for me.
Coach Thibault on Stewie:
I’ve been thinking about doing a semi-regular blog like this for years, something that combines information with gossip about the world of women’s basketball.
The point is, despite what you might see and hear, those who play the game, coach the game, administrate the game, broadcast and telecast the game and officiate the game are human, although I have my doubts about Doris Burke and Holly Rowe because neither of them seem to sleep during the season.
This means many of them are just as capable of falling prey to the same mindless games as the rest of humanity, fans and sportswriters included.
What you see or hear sometimes really isn’t always what is true or right. It’s just politically correct.
So look, I figure when my brain gets over-loaded with some of these things, I’ll just unload them on everyone who reads me:
So get ready. Here we go:
Among the popular expressions used to describe a team entering the critical stage of a season is the one comparing it to a marshmallow on a twig on a warm summer night.
Below it there is fire. Above it the puff dangles.
“We understand our feet are to the fire,” Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan said.
For the last-place Sun (6-14), losers of two straight home games, the kindling simmers in the fire pit of the Verizon Center. Waiting there above them in the Eastern Conference standings are the Washington Mystics.
Mike Thibault was smiling broadly when he left the floor Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena after his Washington Mystics defeated those who once were his – the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
In his first trip back since his November dismissal, Thibualt’s team rebounded from a 60-51 deficit with 6 minutes, 27 seconds to play by holding the Sun to just two points.
Washington’s 66-62 win naturally made his happy. And the same could be said for his team.
“It affected us a lot,” Mystics guard Ivory Latta said. “We really wanted to come into this game and get him this win. We knew it was going to take everybody. We knew it was going to take this whole team to play hard to get this win. We’re so happy that we got this win for him.”
When Mike Thibault goes for a run these days his route is not lined by the vestiges of suburban life in East Lyme.
Now the road is paved with the kind of sightseeing only Washington, D.C., can provide.
“I can run by the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial,” Thibault said. “It’s a different routine and lifestyle.”
Last November, after 10 years as coach of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun – the longest tenure of a diverse career now in its fourth decade – Thibault was fired after his elimination from the Eastern Conference final in a deciding third game played at home.
Thibault’s ultimate scoreboard read like this: 10 years, no league championships.
One month later, he was hired to be the coach and general manager of the Washington Mystics, a once proud franchise weakened so badly that it won only 11 games over the last two seasons.
“Mike Thibault will, over time, make Washington a competitive team, if not this year, in the seasons to come,” said ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck.
As uplifting as their opening-night win over New York was, the Connecticut Sun realized a clearer picture would come during a trip to Chicago and Minnesota last weekend.
In front of partisan crowds during home openers, the Sun emerged with two defeats and the realization there is a lot of work to do.
And they now know it must be done without veteran guard Renee Montgomery for at least the next three weeks.
Montgomery, the former UConn All-American and the WNBA’s Sixth Woman of the Year in 2012, suffered a high ankle sprain in the first minute of the fourth quarter in Friday’s 86-75 loss in Chicago.
She was on crutches during Saturday’s 90-74 loss to the Lynx. And Monday an MRI revealed the serious nature of her injury.
Here is a great story from the Washington Post on former Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, one of the nicest men in pro sports – or women’s basketball as a whole.
He is now the coach and GM of the Washington Mystics, who play at the casino on Friday night.
As you know, former Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault is now in charge of the Washington Mystics. And earlier this week, he made his preseason coaching debut with a win over the Brazilian national team at the Verizon Center.
The Mystics are remaking their team. Thibault has already cut two players from last year’s group, guards Shannon Bobbitt and Natalie Novosel, the former Notre Dame standout.
Here’s a look and listen to what Mike had to say after the win over Brazil courtest of www.wnba.com
If you missed this late Tuesday, the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream released veteran guard Ketia Swanier, a former UConn point guard and No. 1 draft pick of the Connecticut Sun in 2008. Swanier has played for Connecticut, Phoenix and Atlanta in her five seasons.
Her playing time began to decrease last season. She played in 34 games for the Dream, a two-time defending Eastern Conference champion. But she averaged only 2.2 points. The Dream made two key moves in the offseason that impacted Swanier, trading for Jasmine Thomas and drafting Penn State’s Alex Bentley.
Meanwhile, I exchanged Twitter messages with Svetlana Abrosimova yesterday and she reiterated that she has not retired from the WNBA, only the Russian National team.
Sveta is back in Russia training and waiting.
“I am in great shape,” she said. “But as of yet, I do not have any offers from the WNBA.”
And the Washington Mystics have signed free agent center Jessica Moore, another former UConn and Sun player, Moore was with the Sun last season and was a favorite of Mike Thibault, now the coach and GM of the Mystics. Moore played in Wednesday’s preseason game against the Brazil national team in Washington.