Saturday, January 29, 2022

New York Liberty to hire Sandy Brondello as head coach, per report

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Early in December, the New York Liberty surprised the WNBA world by parting ways with head coach Walt Hopkins after just two seasons. Now, they’ve zeroed in on a replacement. The Liberty are expected to hire Sandy Brondello as their new head coach, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN

Brondello spent the past eight seasons as the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, leading the team to the title in 2014 in her first season in charge. The Mercury made the playoffs in all eight of Brondello’s seasons, and got back to the Finals last season, where they lost to the Chicago Sky. Despite all of that success, the Mercury and Brondello decided to part ways instead of working on a new contract. 

Now, Brondello will take on a new challenge in New York. The Liberty made a number of big moves last offseason, adding Natasha Howard, Betnijah Laney and Sami Whitcomb in an effort to jump back into the playoff picture. But though they snuck into the postseason for the first time since 2017 — where they lost to Brondello and the Mercury in the first round — they did so with a 12-20 record. Their 0.375 winning percentage was the worst ever for a playoff team in WNBA history.

Given the talent on the roster, which also includes former No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu and reigning Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere, it’s clear the Liberty’s front office and ownership clearly has high expectations. That’s why they moved on quickly from Hopkins and hired a proven winner like Brondello. She has a career .562 winning percentage, has made the playoffs in every single year she’s been a head coach and has won a title. In addition, she’s been the head coach of the Australian national team since 2017.

The Liberty will likely have a pretty quiet offseason in terms of free agency. Veteran Australian forward Rebecca Allen, who is coming off the best season of her career, is their only notable free agent. She is obviously familiar with Brondello from their time together on the national team, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see her return. 

Additionally, the Liberty have the No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. It will be interesting to see if they try to trade that pick for a player who can contribute right away. They already have a number of young players on the roster, and have tried to speed up their rebuild in recent years with some of their other moves. 

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