Less than a month after being fired as coach of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun after 10 seasons, Mike Thibault returned to the Eastern Conference as coach and general manager of the Washington Mystics Tuesday.
“This is a dream come true for our franchise,” said Sheila Johnson, the Mystics team president. “He is a proven leader who has had a great deal of success in his career.
Thibault led the Sun to eight playoff appearances and two WNBA finals and was a two-time Coach of the Year (2006 and 2008). He also has more wins (206) than any active coach in the WNBA and currently ranks second on the all-time wins list.
“His background really is a perfect fit for us,” said Mystics owner Ted Leonsis.
This is not Thibault’s first time as a coach/GM. He served both roles for the Omaha Racers of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). The Racers won the league title in 1988. During his tenure with the Racers, the team made nine consecutive playoff appearances. He also coached the Calgary 88’s of the World Basketball League (WBL) where he received Coach of the Year honors in 1988.
“The business of coaching is a peak-and-valley one,” Thibault said. “When I left Connecticut, I had a lot of thinking about what I wanted to do next. This fit for me in many ways for myself and my family.
“For all the Mystics’ fans that may have been off the bandwagon for the last few years, the wagon is big enough to get back on. We have a lot to prove and we know it. There are no miracles. It is about hard work.”
The Mystics were 5-29 last season, 1-16 on the road and losers of their final 10 games under former coach/GM Trudi Lacey. Lacey won just 11 games in Washington after being hired in 2010. They have the fourth pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft
During his introductory press conference, Thibault began his comments by asking the audience to remember the victims of the Newtown massacre with a brief moment of silence
“It’s a sobering moment when compared to the business we are in – sports,” Thibault said. “That is the real world. We get caught up in our games, our careers and our lives. But what happened [in Newtown] has touched so many of us in Connecticut.”
Prior to joining the Sun in 2003, Thibault was an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. He also served as a scout for the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks. He served as the director of scouting for the Chicago Bulls during a time when the organization selected Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley and John Paxson.
Prior to being fired by the Sun, which was eliminated in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference finals at home by Indiana this season, Thibault had been offered a chance to return to the NBA as an assistant coach in Portland. But he turned down the job.