April 14, 2021
Storm promotes Talisa Rhea to general manager 48 hours before the WNBA draft
In a somewhat surprising move, Seattle elevated their assistant GM to the big job, What does it all mean?
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Look, replacing a general manager two days before a draft is ideal for no franchise. Typically, you would want the person who built the roster and worked with the scouts to make the pick. Handing the reigns to someone else at the last minute typically indicates some sort of internal conflict.
The Seattle Storm announced they were promoting Assistant General Manager Talisa Rhea to general manager on Tuesday. Rhea takes over as general manager from Alisha Valavanis, who remains Storm President and CEO of both the Storm and Force 10 Hoops.
“We are thrilled to promote Talisa to general manager and are eager to support her continued growth as a WNBA basketball executive. Talisa has the experience, basketball acumen, and passion to thrive in this role,” said Valavanis. “In addition, we at the Storm are excited to continue the tradition of developing post-collegiate and professional players in roles that expand their career opportunities.”
There are no real signs here of dysfunction. It is odd to make this move two days before the draft and after free agency. Having Valavanis oversee Alysha Clark’s free agency and make the Natasha Howard and No. 1 overall pick trades with a successor waiting in the wings is also curious.
Who is Talisa Rhea?
On the other hand, turning control over to Rhea on Tuesday may be a vote of confidence. Rhea joined the team as a video coordinator in 2015 and moved to director of basketball operations in 2016. Three years later, she was named assistant general manager. It’s clear Seattle ownership respects her basketball acumen and it’s likely few people know the team better.
Head Coach Dan Hughes called Rhea “instrumental in the success the Storm have enjoyed the past three years,” and said she was prepared for this role.
There is little doubt Rhea has the job qualifications.
On the court, she was a high school star in Juneau before playing collegiately at Oregon State and Seattle University. After college, she played professionally in Poland until 2015 when she joined the Storm front office.
Off the court, she received her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science before earning her master’s in sports management.
In addition to all that, she has a hand in shaping the roster of two championship rosters. Now, she’ll have an even greater say. Taking over the job right before the draft will still be challenging, but as an internal promotion, she may have an easier time than an external hire would.
The First Order(s) Of Business
Rhea joins the franchise at a potential turning point. Howard and Clark are gone, but Sue Bird is here for one more season. Beyond that, she will have the challenge of re-signing Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Jordin Canada next offseason.
Her ability to navigate those obstacles will likely decide if the Storm remain long-term contenders and the overall landscape of the WNBA if one of those players left. When you look at things this way, a draft she has likely prepped months for seems less stressful.
Changing general managers 48 hours before a draft is something you seldom see. If a team is going to do that, a qualified internal promotion like Rhea makes sense. This move still would have made sense closer to Halloween but could still ultimately work out for Seattle.