New Sparks GM Karen Bryant is preparing for WNBA free agency

Karen Bryant He was imagined to interview the candidates sparksplace of basic 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 crew introduced her appointment as basic supervisor and chief administrative officer. With the franchise mired in its worst two-year stretch, Bryant will lay the inspiration for a brand new Sparks period through 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 change within the basketball facet of the group and we have now a variety 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 essentially the most out there cowl area. 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 prime draft picks. Throughout her 15-year tenure with the Seattle Storm, the crew has constructed quite a lot of its success on No. 1 picks Lauren Jackson and Sue Fowl. After quitting in 2014, Storm gained 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 significant WNBA crew with industrial 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 basic supervisor of the defunct NBA’s Seattle Reign in 1998.

Instances have modified drastically in girls’s skilled basketball. Combining basic 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 accepted in 2020 that has made wage cap choices tougher. Analytics, scouts and persons 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 helping within the crew’s seek for a basic supervisor as a strategic advisor, a task she started in 2021. When the crew 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 up the position of basic 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 closing day as CEO and President of the Seattle Storm on July 31, 2014.

(Eileen Thompson/The Related Press)

“Surprising for me and I believe finally sudden for the group,” Bryant mentioned, “however I believe as we sit right here at this time as companions, I believe we’re more than happy and assured that we will collaborate and lead this group ahead.”

New assistant basic supervisor Eli Horowitz, who spent most of his six-year tenure with the crew working in communications, will be a 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 proscribed within the WNBA, however Bryant notes that she helped convey coaches Ann Donovan and Brian Agler to Seattle. They every gained one WNBA title for the franchise.

“She’s on prime of this, she understands this league and most significantly, she wins,” Miller mentioned. “And he or she is aware of the right way to convey profitable groups collectively.”

Miller started placing collectively his teaching employees on Wednesday, asserting Chris Couklanis and Steve Smith as assistants and hiring Nola Henry as participant improvement coach. Kouklanis has overseen Connecticut’s protection below Miller for the previous two seasons. Smith beforehand labored in Los Angeles below 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 utterly rebuilt their enterprise and basketball operations with a brand new president, coach, and basic supervisor. With free company set to start in 4 weeks, a brand new slate is on the way in which. 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 price it.

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

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