Phoenix Mercury hire Kristi Toliver as associate head coach

Dec 2, 2023, 10:30 AM

Kristi Toliver looks on during Game Four of the 2019 WNBA Finals between the Washington Mystics and...

Kristi Toliver looks on during Game Four of the 2019 WNBA Finals between the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena on October 08, 2019 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury named three-time WNBA All-Star and former NBA assistant Kristi Toliver as associate head coach Friday.

A 14-year veteran, Toliver won WNBA titles while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016 and the Washington Mystics in 2019. Toliver spent the 2023 season playing for the Mystics before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in her right knee in September. Due to plantar fasciitis, she featured in just 11 games off the bench in 2023, averaging 3.6 points in 9.0 minutes per game.

She has not officially announced her retirement, but WNBA rules prevent players from also serving on WNBA coaching staffs.

Toliver has averaged 11.8 points and 3.4 assists in her WNBA career, playing nine seasons with Los Angeles, four with Washington and one with Chicago. She also ranks seventh all-time with 651 three-point field goals made and 19th all-time with 1,300 assists.

Toliver, who turns 37 next month, became the first active WNBA player to work as an NBA assistant coach in 2018 when she became a full-time assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. She coached four seasons in the NBA, two with Washington and two with Dallas, helping the Mavericks to a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2022.

As a player, Toliver also helped lead Maryland win their first and only NCAA championship in 2006. She ranks first in Maryland history in career assists, three-point field goals made, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage.

Toliver will join the staff of first-year coach Nate Tibbetts, who the Mercury hired in October after a long career as an NBA assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic.

Phoenix finished the season last in the WNBA at 9-31 overall and failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012. Tibbetts took over for Nikki Blue, who led the Mercury to a 7-21 record after taking over for Vanessa Nygaard. Nygaard was let go in late June after the team started 2-10. Superstars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi missed plenty of time in 2023, as Griner only played 31 games, while Taurasi played 26.

The Mercury are in the draft lottery, which will be held Dec. 10, and have the second-best chance at the No. 1 pick. Lottery odds are based on the cumulative records of the two most recent regular seasons (2022 and 2023).

Phoenix Mercury

Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort chats pregame...

Arizona Sports

Arizona Sports’ 2024 Newsmakers Week schedule

Leaders from the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona State Sun Devils and more join Bickley & Marotta.

1 day ago

Former Baylor Bears player Brittney Griner reacts during ceremony to retire her jersey before the g...

David Veenstra

Baylor women’s basketball retires Brittney Griner’s jersey

Baylor retired Brittney Griner's No. 42 on Sunday. In 2012, Griner won the NCAA Championship and led the Bears to a 40-0 record.

3 days ago

Former professional basketball player and current sportscaster, Ann Meyers Drysdale speaks during a...

David Veenstra

Ann Meyers Drysdale named recipient of the 2024 Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award

Ann Meyers Drysdale was named the recipient of the 2024 Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award on Sunday.

3 days ago

Mat Ishbia at a Phoenix Suns game...

Arizona Sports

Mat Ishbia all in on Suns, Mercury, but won’t rule out NFL ‘1 day’

Mat Ishbia's main focus is on the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, though he wouldn't rule out adding another team to his portfolio.

5 days ago

Kahleah Cooper and Sophie Cunningham...

Arizona Sports

ESPN’s Pelton: Mercury trade for Kahleah Copper earns a B- grade

Grades are coming in after the Phoenix Mercury acquired three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper from the Chicago Sky along with Morgan Bertsch.

14 days ago

Kahleah Copper of the Chicago Sky...

Arizona Sports

Mercury trade for All-Star Kahleah Copper, send draft picks and players to Sky

The Phoenix Mercury are trading draft capital and players to the Chicago Sky to acquire 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, per reports.

15 days ago

Phoenix Mercury hire Kristi Toliver as associate head coach