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Liberty hire Sandy Brondello as new head coach

New Liberty coach Sandy Brondello coached the Phoenix

New Liberty coach Sandy Brondello coached the Phoenix Mercury to the WNBA Finals last season and also coached Australia in the Olympics. Credit: Getty Images/Mike Mattina

The Liberty hired Sandy Brondello as their new head coach on Friday, relying on her WNBA experience and success to help take the franchise to the next level.

Brondello’s contract was not renewed by the Phoenix Mercury on the same day last month that the Liberty decided to part ways with their coach, Walt Hopkins.

The Mercury advanced to the WNBA Finals in Brondello's final season, losing to the Chicago Sky. The Liberty went 12-20 and secured the No. 8 seed for the playoffs, clinching their first playoff berth since 2017. The Liberty lost to the Mercury in a one-game elimination playoff game.

The Liberty introduced Brondello during a news conference on Friday afternoon.

"For us, it was truly experience," Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said when asked why the team made the coaching switch. "It’s someone who is proven and battle tested. No longer are we in a situation where the eighth seed is our goal. We are looking for sustained playoff success."

Brondello will have a young roster to work with. Guard Sabrina Ionescu, the top overall pick in the 2020 draft, is set to begin her third season, guard/forward Betnijah Laney was named a WNBA All-Star for the first time in her career last season, forward Michaela Onyenwere is the reigning WNBA rookie of the year, and Didi Richards, a guard/forward, was named to the WNBA's all-rookie team in 2021.

As coach of the Australian national team, Brondello also has worked with Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb. Rebecca Allen, who averaged a career-high 9.2 points with the Liberty last season, is an unrestricted free agent and played for Brondello with the Australian national team.

"I’m super excited," Brondello said. "One door closes and another opens. I didn’t know what the future was going to happen for me ... It’s exciting. It’s a new team, a very talented team. I know we will be a better team in 2022, but it will take a lot of hard work and commitment."

Brondello is 164-128 during the regular season and 24-21 in the playoffs in nine seasons as a WNBA coach. She spent one season as the coach of the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2010, going 14-20 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs.

She was hired by the Mercury in 2014 and led Phoenix to the WNBA championship that season, winning coach of the year. The Mercury made the playoffs in each of Brondello’s eight seasons. She is the 10th winningest coach in WNBA history.

Brondello spent five seasons in the WNBA as a guard, averaging 11.4 points and 2.3 assists for the Detroit Shock, Miami Sol and Seattle Storm. She was an All-Star in 1999 with the Shock. Brondello was also a longtime player for the Australian national team, winning a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics and silver medals at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

She'll have an opportunity to develop the Liberty guards, much like she did in Phoenix with All-Star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.

"Obviously, I was a guard," Brondello said. "I played at a high level for a long time. My experiences will help them. Because there’s different situations they are going to go through. How do they handle it? Guess what? I’ve probably been through it ... You saw what Skylar was able to do. A lot of credit to her. She wanted to get better. And I think these players on the New York Libery want to get better."

With Barbara Barker

New York Sports