Phoenix Mercury hire Kristi Toliver as associate head coach
Dec 2, 2023, 10:30 AM
(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).