PHOENIX MERCURY

Mercury coach Nate Tibbetts ‘thankful’ for Diana Taurasi’s experience and leadership

May 16, 2024, 7:16 PM

Head coach Nate Tibbetts of the Phoenix Mercury yells to his players in the first quarter of their ...

Head coach Nate Tibbetts of the Phoenix Mercury yells to his players in the first quarter of their game against the Las Vegas Aces on May 14, 2024. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

First-time Phoenix Mercury head coach Nate Tibbetts has a lot of his own experience to lean on, but the experience point guard Diana Taurasi brings to the team has been invaluable as he gets his feet under him.

Tibbetts boasts over a decade in assistant coaching experience around the NBA as well as several years coaching in the NBA G League, but this is his first WNBA job.

Tibbetts joined Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Thursday to talk about how vital Taurasi has been to his integration into not only a new team, but also a new league.

“The most important job of any professional coach is getting your best players to believe in you and your system,” Tibbets said. “And obviously, there’s gonna be times where there’s a little bit of doubt, but me taking the job so early, DT being here in town, we’ve been able to develop a relationship.”

Taurasi has started her 20th season in the WNBA, spending nearly half of her lifetime in the league. That age isn’t slowing her yet, as she scored 23 points on 7-of-11 3-point shooting in the season-opening loss to the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday.

“We’ve had great conversations … and just talked about life, talked about basketball, and those conversations are gonna help when we hit a hard time and maybe we’re asking the team to do something they’re not used to doing,” he continued. “Those are just conversations that you need to have at this level, because she’s seen so much and it would not be smart of me not to lean in on her experiences and I’m just thankful that she’s here in this new journey with me.”

What’s the latest on Brittney Griner’s toe injury?

Star center Brittney Griner started the season on the sidelines after she suffered a fractured left toe ahead of the season.

The team said on Monday she would be re-evaluated “in the coming weeks,” and Tibbetts said on Thursday the team expects to have her back “sooner than later.”

Forward Natasha Mack made her first WNBA start on Tuesday in Griner’s place matched up against Aces center A’ja Wilson, one of the WNBA’s best players.

Tibbetts said Mack settled in after a quarter or two before a very respectable second-half effort left her with six rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 20 minutes.

“She got more comfortable as the game went on and we’re excited she’s here with us,” Tibbetts added.

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