New Sparks GM Karen Bryant is preparing for WNBA free agency

Karen Bryant He was alleged to interview the candidates sparksplace of normal supervisor. Then it turned out to be the only option.

the earlier Seattle Storm The CEO transitioned from a behind-the-scenes contributor to Sparks’ rebuilding to a senior architect on Tuesday when the workforce introduced her appointment as normal supervisor and chief administrative officer. With the franchise mired in its worst two-year stretch, Bryant will lay the muse for a brand new Sparks period throughout the upcoming free company interval.

“This can be a essential yr for us,” Bryant mentioned at her inaugural press convention on Wednesday. Head coach Kurt Miller. “Kurt and I are right here to assist lead a metamorphosis within the basketball facet of the group and now we have quite a lot of work to do.”

The Sparks, who’ve missed the playoffs in consecutive years, have solely two gamers on assured contracts subsequent yr together with six unrestricted free brokers. They’ve probably the most obtainable cowl house. They don’t have a 2023 first-round draft decide, which was traded in a deal that included acquisition Sineday Carter from Atlanta, who then despatched the decide to Washington.

Bryant has personally seen the worth of the WNBA’s high draft picks. Throughout her 15-year tenure with the Seattle Storm, the workforce has constructed a substantial amount of its success on No. 1 picks Lauren Jackson and Sue Chook. After quitting in 2014, Storm received two extra championships because the #1 Jewell Lloyd (2015) and Breanna Stewart (2016) franchise with Baird, who retired in 2022.

Because the Storm’s inaugural COO earlier than transitioning to president and CEO for seven years, Bryant helped cement the franchise’s standing as a serious WNBA workforce with business successes such because the Storm’s first jersey partnership.

However she hasn’t held a place like this within the 25 years since she was named normal supervisor of the defunct NBA’s Seattle Reign in 1998.

Instances have modified drastically in girls’s skilled basketball. Combining normal supervisor and head teaching duties — as Miller did for six years at Connecticut — is now not doable for many groups, in accordance with Miller, due to a collective bargaining settlement authorized in 2020 that has made wage cap choices tougher. Analytics, scouts and individuals are extra superior. Bryant jokes that expertise nonetheless scares her.

Bryant has admitted that she is “rusty” in evaluating gamers, rating wage cap necessities and making choices about roster constructing. She added that there was a “steep studying curve” forward.

When Sparks fired Derek Fisher final JuneOn the time, Bryant was merely aiding within the workforce’s seek for a normal supervisor as a strategic advisor, a task she started in 2021. When the workforce started its teaching search in earnest after the season, Bryant started talking with Miller, who was then the coach of the Connecticut Solar. A shared imaginative and prescient emerged, and possession approached Bryant about taking over the position of normal supervisor themselves.

CEO and outgoing president of the Seattle Storm, Karen Bryant, smiles as she is being honored on her final day.

Karen Bryant is honored throughout her ultimate day as CEO and President of the Seattle Storm on July 31, 2014.

(Eileen Thompson/The Related Press)

“Surprising for me and I believe in the end surprising for the group,” Bryant mentioned, “however I believe as we sit right here at present as companions, I believe we’re very happy and assured that we will collaborate and lead this group ahead.”

New assistant normal supervisor Eli Horowitz, who spent most of his six-year tenure with the workforce working in communications, will be part of Bryant and Miller. He’ll oversee participant personnel, scouting, wage cap administration and basketball analytics after serving final season as Senior Director of Communications and Basketball Analytics.

Her roster-building expertise is restricted within the WNBA, however Bryant notes that she helped carry coaches Ann Donovan and Brian Agler to Seattle. They every received one WNBA title for the franchise.

“She’s on high of this, she understands this league and most significantly, she wins,” Miller mentioned. “And she or he is aware of the best way to carry successful groups collectively.”

Miller started placing collectively his teaching workers on Wednesday, saying Chris Couklanis and Steve Smith as assistants and hiring Nola Henry as participant improvement coach. Kouklanis has overseen Connecticut’s protection beneath Miller for the previous two seasons. Smith beforehand labored in Los Angeles beneath Orlando Woolridge (1998), Michael Cooper (2008-2009), Gene Gillum (2010), and Benny Toler (2014), earlier than he and Miller labored for Agler’s Sparks in 2015. Miller introduced in Smith to Connecticut from 2016-18.

Miller mentioned he’s nonetheless “actively in search of” a 3rd assistant coach, which is permissible if groups rent former WNBA gamers.

Over the previous six months, the Sparks have fully rebuilt their enterprise and basketball operations with a brand new president, coach, and normal supervisor. With free company set to start in 4 weeks, a brand new slate is on the best way. Pushing the franchise right into a reboot and rebuilding could be lengthy and at occasions irritating for impatient followers, however Bryant and Miller assume it is value it.

“We will measure, and we will be disciplined in our strategy,” Bryant mentioned. “We won’t take shortcuts and are on this for continued success.”

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