Next coach of WNBA’s CT Sun could come from NBA

Former coach Curt Miller also served as general manager, but the franchise will not combine the positions. And finding a coach to replace Miller — who left for the Los Angeles Sparks — is the first order of business.

Rizzotti says she’s looking for someone with WNBA connections — preferably a former player — and someone who has respect for what has made Connecticut successful in recent years.

This is not a rebuild job. The next coach will inherit an already established winning roster, so Sun is looking for a candidate with proven credentials. This makes the set of possibilities small.

Who are the candidates?

Here are some names that the Sun might consider:

Chris Koclanes, Sun assistant coach

If the Sun are looking to continue Miller’s coaching style and playoff trajectory, Koclanes makes sense. Since fellow Sun assistant Brandi Poole has spent 17 seasons alongside Miller — combining her time at Bowling Green, Indiana and Connecticut — it’s hard to imagine Miller and Poole on separate benches.

Koclanes has been an assistant coach for the Suns since 2019 and previously served as the franchise’s video and operations coordinator from 2016-2018, so he’s a film fanatic. Coaches who actually enjoy watching hours upon hours of film tend to pick up details and schemes faster than their peers. This valuable quality would serve him well as a coach.

So if Connecticut aspires to keep it in the family, Koclanes is the obvious choice.

Vickie Johnson, former coach of the Dallas Wings

Dallas recently hired former Los Angeles assistant Latricia Trammell as coach, the franchise’s fifth coach since 2018. Johnson was hired after the Wings fired Brian Agler after two seasons without a playoff berth.

Johnson sent two postseason berths, but Dallas did not pick up her option. The Wings were 18-18 last season, their best record since the team moved to Dallas in 2016. But the Wings apparently had higher expectations than a .500 record.

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Prior to her time with the Wings, Johnson was an assistant coach for the San Antonio Stars from 2011 to 2016, then she became the head coach in 2017. After the franchise moved to Las Vegas and became the Aces, Johnson was hired as an assistant coach . He took over Dallas in 2020.

During her time in Dallas, the two-time WNBA All-Star (1999, 2001) had a 32-36 record and was 1-3 in the playoffs.

Johnson’s experience as a former WNBA player and coach may seem to fit what the Sun is looking for.

She’s also well-liked and respected around the league, so maybe the Wings’ loss will be the Suns’ gain.

Noelle Quinn, Seattle Storm coach

Seeing as Quinn has just completed her first full season as the head coach of the Seattle Storm, it wouldn’t seem out of the question for her to suddenly leave for Connecticut. But the strangest movements have occurred.

Quinn ranks seventh on UCLA’s all-time scoring list and was selected by the Minnesota Lynx with the No. 4 in the 2007 WNBA draft. From there she was on five WNBA teams before finishing her career with the Storm and was part of the 2018 WNBA title team.

She stayed with the Seattle family and became an assistant coach in 2019. Quinn was promoted to associate coach after Dan Hughes was forced to sit down for medical reasons. Gary Kloppenburg led the defense while Quinn managed the electric offense and together the two co-directed the Storm’s 2020 WNBA Championship run.

Following Hughes’ retirement, Quinn was named Seattle’s head coach and led the team to a postseason run before the Storm lost in the semifinals to eventual WNBA champion Las Vegas.

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With Sue Bird retired and the team facing several unrestricted free agents (including Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles), Seattle could be in transition mode. However, it’s more likely that the newly minted coach isn’t looking for a position elsewhere, so even though it could be a stretch.

But it’s worth trying for the Suns to pursue another coach with WNBA playing experience.

Teresa Weatherspoon, New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach

When the Mercury came knocking on their door last season, the Pelicans fought hard to keep Weatherspoon on their bench and effectively convinced him to stay in New Orleans.

It’s possible that Phoenix just wasn’t the right situation (Robert Sarver says hello), it’s also possible that Connecticut’s impressive roster construction could be the tipping point that lures Teresa Weatherspoon back to the WNBA as a head coach.

Weatherspoon is certainly no stranger to the WNBA, as she spent most of her professional career with the New York Liberty and led the franchise to its first WNBA Finals in 1997. She retired as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader in assists (1,306) and steals (453).

Weatherspoon is also No. 2 in the WNBA for all-time career assists.

The two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (1997, 1998) coached her alma mater Louisiana Tech from 2009 to 2014. She then returned to the Liberty and became the franchise’s first Director of Player Development in 2015.

In 2019, she moved to the NBA as a player development coach before becoming an assistant coach in 2020. The four-time All-Star (1999-2003) is well-respected by the front office and players — star Zion Williamson even stopped a press conference to give her props.

The Mercury couldn’t pry him away from the Pelicans, but could the Sun be the right team to lure Weatherspoon to the WNBA? As one of the league’s best players, Weatherspoon would be a hire for the Sun.

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Sonia Raman, Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach

Raman is another NBA assistant seen as a candidate to follow Becky Hammon’s path to success with the Las Vegas Aces.

Raman is also a New Englander, growing up west of Boston in Framingham, Mass. (just 90 minutes from Mohegan Sun) and playing at Tufts. She then graduated from Boston College Law School and decided to pursue her career as a lawyer…or so she thought.

She couldn’t escape the pull toward basketball, so Raman was a lawyer by day and a volunteer assistant coach for Wellesley College by night. Raman did this for six seasons.

In 2008, Raman accepted her first coaching gig at MIT and spent 12 seasons leading the Division III school. She took on the massive undertaking of engineering a rebuild and effectively led the program to back-to-back conference titles in 2018 and 2019.

Making this kind of competitive school is no small feat, so Raman attended Celtic training whenever they were open for coaches in the area. She is said to be a student of the game, constantly watching the NBA for ideas to implement.

According to The Athletic, she started dating people in the league. Most notably Grizzlies VP of Basketball Strategy Rich Cho, who was instrumental in bringing Raman to Memphis.

After a three-hour interview, she signed her deal to join the Grizzlies’ bench by impressing the front office with her research and preparation. She has become known for her work ethic and her preparation for anything.

If Raman was looking for a coaching gig in her native New England, this would be the perfect opportunity.

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