WNBA teams deal with a different dynamic than do teams in almost any other professional sports league. Players from all 12 teams in the league pack their suitcases following the season and head abroad to continue competing professionally in foreign leagues.
This offseason, players who competed in the WNBA last year are dispatching out to more than 10 countries worldwide to play in other leagues.
The challenge, then, presented to organizations like the Mercury — who have eight players from last year’s roster competing internationally — is that of tabbing their personnel to make sure they’re healthy during their hardwood time outside of the United States.
But this season, the Mercury have an advantage that few teams hold.
Their new head coach, too, is abroad and coaching the team’s star player and leader, as Mercury GM Jim Pitman explained while a guest on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM during Doug and Wolf’s Newsmakers Week.
“A lot of teams don’t like to have their coaches overseas; I see that as a benefit for us,” Pitman said on Thursday.
New Mercury head coach, Sandy Brondello — once the coach of the San Antonio Silver Stars and a two-time WNBA champion herself — is in Russia coaching UMMC Ekaterinburg this offseason. And the post makes the Mercury more at ease this season than in the past, when they’ve struggled to keep tabs on the players.
“One of the ways that we’ve combated that this year is in the hiring of coach Brondello,” Pitman explained. “She’s actually coaching in Russia this year — coaching with Diana Taurasi’s team.
And beyond the contact with Taurasi, Brondello is able to monitor others while in Russia, as well. Four of the eight Mercury players who are competing abroad are doing so in Russia.
“She’s able to see most of our players on a semi-regular basis,” Pitman said. “(UMMC Ekaterinburg) played last week against Candace Dupree’s team. They play DeWanna Bonner’s team. She’s seen many of our players while she’s over there.”
The Mercury tip their 2014 season off on May 17 versus the Seattle Storm.