December 2, 2023
Phoenix Mercury secure elite hire in WNBA All-Star Kristi Toliver
Two-time WNBA champion named Mercury associate head coach
The Phoenix Mercury made a splash on Friday, hiring longtime WNBA player Kristi Toliver as their associate head coach.
The hire signals the end of Toliver’s solid WNBA career. Toward the end of last season, the then-Washington Mystic tore her ACL.
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“I believe everything happens for a reason,” said Toliver in an Instagram post. “Tearing my ACL was painful in so many ways, and it’s hard to see the good in a moment like that. But it’s undeniable that it led to my present situation, which I’m beyond excited about. I’m thrilled to begin the next chapter of my career and join the Phoenix Mercury, a world class organization, as their associate head coach. I love the WNBA. I’ve poured myself into the league as a player for 14 seasons, and now I’m lucky to continue as a coach. I’m grateful to (Mercury general manager) Nick U’Ren, (owner) Mat Ishbia and (head coach) Nate Tibbetts for the opportunity.”
In her WNBA career, Toliver spent nine seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, a season with the Chicago Sky and four seasons with the Mystics. She was a three-time All-Star and a key member on the Sparks’ 2016 championship team and the Mystics’ 2019 championship team.
This will not be the first time Toliver coaches. In addition to playing, Toliver was an assistant coach for multiple NBA staffs while still active in the WNBA. When she was hired by the Washington Wizards in 2018, she became the first active WNBA player to assume a role of NBA assistant coach. She spent two seasons with the Wizards before joining Jason Kidd‘s staff in Dallas for two seasons from 2021 to 2023. In her first season with the Mavericks, she helped lead them to the Western Conference Finals.
Ahead of the Mavericks’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, Kidd spoke about the skillset the Mercury are bringing in with Toliver.
“It’s awesome,” Kidd said. “With her being here and now going to Phoenix, I think that’s a great opportunity and…[her] basketball IQ is off the charts. So they’re getting a really good coach.”
Toliver joining the Mercury continues the trend of Phoenix bringing in hires with NBA ties. General manager Nick U’Ren was hired away from the Golden State Warriors’ front office and new head coach Nate Tibbetts comes to the Mercury after being an NBA assistant for many years.
Reaction on social media to the hire has been positive. Mercury players Sophie Cunningham and Moriah Jefferson showed their support on Instagram with emojis. Toliver’s head coach at Maryland, Brenda Frese, posted on X that the hire is “terrific” for Phoenix. Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell posted on X that Toliver is a “great player but she is going to be an even better coach.” Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright posted about the hire on X, saying, “Love former players on the bench!” She also congratulated Toliver.
The Phoenix Mercury declined any one-on-one interviews for this story.
Written by Jesse Morrison
Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.