Sun

New Beginnings for Sun After Miller Exit

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As the 2022 WNBA season progressed, the biggest looming offseason question mark for the Connecticut Sun surrounded Brionna Jones. Now that she’s emerged into an All-Star, would the Sun give her the max contract she’s earned, even if it would just about cut their cap room in half?  Would she take a pay cut to stay with the Sun? Or would she move on to a team better suited to utilize her? That question mark is still there for Connecticut. It’s just no longer the biggest offseason question mark. It was announced on Friday that Head Coach and General Manager, Curt Miller, was hired as the next Head Coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.

What Went Wrong?

Depending on who you ask, some people will tell you Miller’s decision to leave the Sun came as a surprise, and others will tell you they saw it coming. If you aren’t someone who follows the league closely, you might raise an eyebrow upon hearing the news, considering the Sun were Finals participants. If you are someone who follows the league, you’ve heard the whispers. You’ve seen discussion about how Miller was underutilizing his his MVP, Jonquel Jones. And we can’t forget the infamous, “I’m gonna get fired because we can’t make a layup.”

Coming off her MVP season, Jones played 26.4 minutes per game in 2022. That’s a quite a low number for someone who’s as talented and conditioned as she is. Not only were there complaints from fans about her playing time, but often times when she was on the floor, she simply wasn’t getting the ball in favorable positions, which limited her FGA. However, this might have had much to do with the Sun losing their point guard, Jasmine Thomas, for the season. Regardless of whose fault it was, it was clear that JJ was frustrated at numerous points throughout the season.

The 2022 Sun’s biggest kryptonite was also their biggest strength. Their three best players, Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, and Brionna Jones, couldn’t effectively be on the court at the same time, due to position limitations. They made that lineup work every now and then, but in the Finals when push came to shove, it wasn’t effective enough against a top tier team.

Is Two Jobs Better Than One?

Because of this, Miller had to make a decision every night to sit one of his stars for longer than they would have been sitting on any other team. In other organizations throughout the league, you might call this a disconnect between the front office and coaching staff. But in this case, Miller, as the General Manager, was in part responsible for having those three on the same team. At the same time, you can’t fault any coach for wanting to load up on talented players. In this case, they just play too similar of positions.

The Chicago Sky (James Wade), Minnesota Lynx (Cheryl Reeve), and Washington Mystics (Mike Thibault) are all teams who have their Head Coaches also act as General Managers. All three have found success with that strategy. But with how Miller’s tenure went, it’ll be interesting to see if the Sun decide to go a different route.

Potential Candidates

Two obvious potential candidates for the position are either of Miller’s former assistants, Brandi Poole and Chris Koclanes. She’s yet to hold a head coaching title, but Poole has been by Miller’s side as his assistant for years. She was his assistant at Bowling Green, and then Indiana for a total of 13 years between the two jobs. Because of this, it’s conceivable that she may join Miller in Hollywood. Or maybe she’s ready to make the leap on her own.

Koclanes became an assistant in 2019. He was able to get a taste of the head coaching job last season when both Miller and Poole were unavailable, due to health and safety protocols. He coached two games and split the pair. But overall, Koclanes has a lot less coaching experience than any other potential candidates, so this option seems the least likely.

Another possibility, this one from outside the organization, is Pokey Chatman. Chatman has the experience and seems well liked by players. She’s also had success in the league, as her Chicago Sky teams made the playoffs four years in a row between 2013 and 2016, reaching the Finals once and the Semi-Finals once. Then there were some rough years in Indiana, but well.. we can’t blame just her for that. In 2022, she returned to the league from a two year hiatus as an assistant to Noelle Quinn and the Seattle Storm. Chatman could be the answer for a team in win now mode.

Knock, Knock

The Sun haven’t politely knocked on the door of a championship. They’ve actually been banging, loudly, on the door for years. They just haven’t quite been able to bust through it. There’s been a lot of talk about how the Sun’s championship window would close after the 2022 season, which isn’t the case. Their core, for the most part, still remains for at least one more season. Because of this, President Jen Rizzotti is going to be looking for someone who can bring immediate success to a franchise longing for a title.

“As I look to our future, I know we have all the pieces in place to be a championship contender again next year; We look forward to finding the right person to lead our team.”

As mentioned, the Sun have been banging on the door for quite some time now, to no avail. Whoever gets the job, hopefully they bring in the battering rams. It’s time to bust it down.

About Kayla Dos Santos

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