Australian Opals coach Sandy Brondello determined to stay in WNBA

Australian Opals coach Sandy Brondello is determined to stay in the WNBA coaching ranks, after parting ways with the Phoenix Mercury, ending an incredibly successful eight-year tenure with the franchise.

Via release, the Mercury announced the organisation and Brondello had “mutually agreed” to a different path for the team, with the 2014 championship winning coach just months removed from leading the squad to a Finals appearance.

“To be quite honest, I’ve been here for eight years, and management decided it was good to have a new voice so if you call that mutual, that’s what it was,” Brondello told ESPN’s Ball and the Real World podcast of the decision.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to coach the Phoenix Mercury for so long. It’s hard to win in this league, it’s hard to stay more than three years in this league and I was able to stay with a great organisation for eight years. Grateful for that, got to coach some really great players, made a lot of friends but now let’s see what the next opportunity brings me.”

As it currently stands, there is one other head coaching vacancy in the league, with the New York Liberty ending the tenure of Walt Hopkins after two seasons.

“I’d like to stay coaching in the WNBA. I love the challenge of bringing a team together in the best league in the world with the best players in the world.

“The only team that’s available is New York, that would be a great situation if they deemed me to be the next coach. We’ll see, if not I can focus on the Opals next year and look the following year if any jobs become available. I like challenging myself, so we’ll see.”

With her WNBA future up in the air for now, Brondello can turn her attention to the Opals, with the build-up to next September’s FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney tipping off with the announcement of a 22-player squad earlier this week.

“It’s the best players we have. That’s not to say players won’t be added at a later date, there’s a few players that come to mind. It’s going to be very competitive.

“With no Liz Cambage in the team, she’s been great for the Opals in the past, but we know she’ll no longer be there so it’s an opportunity for others. We have to reset the way we want to play, and I think it’s exciting.

“Jan Sterling and I contacted all the players via email or phone to get their interest and see if they were committed, because it is a big commitment. Liz had decided she has no interest in doing that. That was fine, we respect that. My focus now is on the talent we do have.”

The star’s absence begins a new era for the Opals, who can now move ahead in their preparations after a disappointing Olympic campaign that was marred by limited preparation and the removal of Cambage from the squad on the eve of the tournament.

“We still hurt from Tokyo, it didn’t pan out the way we wanted. It’s a fresh start for us with some really committed athletes in a home World Cup. Nothing gets better than that.

“We had players who had been in lockdown. While you train, it was in small groups, you couldn’t get the group together and the WNBL players hadn’t played since December. If you play at this level, you can’t just rock up and feel good. We didn’t have that preparation.

“We didn’t do our best. I understand that, it still burns but now we have to move forward and it’s all about preparation. Not just training but games against quality international opponents so we can continue to learn and develop and work out who is in our best 12 so we can get back on the podium.”

Brondello plans to return to Australia in mid-January, before a small camp will proceed the Opals heading to Belgrade for a World Cup qualifying tournament* from February 10-13.

*The Opals automatically qualify for the World Cup as the host nation.

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