Until a short time ago, the desk in office of the Washington Mystics head coach at the Verizon Center faced a window overlooking the bustle of the street below.
No longer. The new resident has moved the desk to the other side of the office; no more view of the city, just the hallway.
“I wanted to change the karma,” Mike Thibault said.
Funny he should say that. In November, the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, with whom he coached for 10 years and brought to two WNBA Finals, decided to do the same thing.
They fired Thibault a month after their elimination in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“That’s in the past now,” Thibault said Thursday. “I don’t look back on it anyone, to be honest. I’ve moved on. They’ve clearly moved on. And we’ll both go about our business.”
Ironically, on Jan. 3, the day Seton Hall coach Anne Dovovan was named his successor, Thibault was also on the casino campus tending to one last piece of old business.
“I was in Connecticut,” Thibault said. “That morning, I turned in my car back to the team.”
Since then, now living in downtown Washington, life has taken on a new pace.
“I’ve been scrambling to get a lot of things done. I’m trying to get a house sold in one place [Connecticut] while arranging for temporary housing in another.
“I’m trying to put names to faces in this new organization. I am preparing [as the GM] for the start of free agency. I am scouting college players. I am working towards putting together my staff.
“Every day, I have a list of things I need to do. If I can cross off a number of them, I feel good. But by the end of the day, I’ve likely added 10 more.”
Thibault said neither Scott Hawk or Bernadette Mattox, his longtime assistants with the Sun, will join him in Washington.
“Bernadette is taking a year off to watch her son [Vincent] play his senior year of basketball [in Kentucky] and be around for the big things that are coming up in his life,” Thibault said. “I don’t know what Scott is going to do yet. He is still looking at a couple of opportunities.”
Thibault says he talks to his new bosses often to fill them in.
“I send them a detail summary of what’s going on,” Thibault said. “We haven’t had a lot of major things happen yet. But once we involve ourselves in the possibility of signing free agents or making trades, I will keep them informed.
“But they’ve given me the freedom to run things the way I feel they should be run. They’ve been great to work for. I realize they view me as someone with the experience to help build things back up. And I took this job because they were willing to give me that freedom.”
Thibault had the chance to return to the NBA as an assistant with the Portland Trailblazers last year, but turned down the job because he would have been forced to leave the Sun in the middle of its 2012 season.
The Mystics won only 11 games in the last two seasons and have the fourth pick in the 2013 Draft. They have only six playoff appearances in its 15-year history and have made it to the conference finals just once (2002). And its best regular-season record (22-12) came in 2010 when the Mystics were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
They are currently led by forward Crystal Langhorne, the former Maryland standout, who is one of the WNBA’s best post players.
“I looking forward and excited about what Mike is going to bring to D.C,” Langhorne told the Mystics website.
Former Duke guard Monique Currie and veteran forward Michelle Snow give the team some stability.
But there is little else to work with, which makes free agency and the upcoming college draft so potentially critical.
“Other than our defense and our offense and our foul shooting and our turnovers,” Mystics owner Ted Leonsis said, “we’ve given Mike all he needs to to be successful.”
Thibault smiles when he hears this.
“I don’t think the job [of rebuilding the team] will take forever to do,” Thibault said. “What’s most important is to change the losing culture first. But clearly, after winning just 11 games [in the last two years] means there is a lot to fix.”
Thibault said the Mystics are exploring opportunities to move up in the draft, perhaps as high as No. 2 where they could take Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne. Chicago currently holds the pick.
“But I’ve been telling everyone [in the organization] not to feel badly about not having a top three pick. I feel there are many more quality players than [three]. Getting the fourth pick [in the draft lottery] was not a death sentence for us. And I am approaching it with that [optimism].”
Thibault scouted UConn’s game at Georgetown Wednesday and was planning to see Maryland vs. Miami in College Park, Md., Thursday night.
“My plan is to identify the top eight or nine players and have it all sorted out by the time we get to the draft,” Thibault said.
Thibault reiterated his appreciation for UConn senior guard Kelly Faris, although it is unlikely Washington would take her with the fourth pick.
“There is a very good buzz about Kelly now,” Thibault said. “She has been able to make her jump shots now and he’s shown she’s not reluctant to take them. She has certainly helped her draft stock.”
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