July 9, 2022 

Sights and sounds from Sandy Brondello’s return to Phoenix

Guess who's back, back again? Sandy's back in Phoenix

PHOENIX – As the crowd roared, hands clapped and a tribute video played, New York Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello took it all in. It had been 269 days since Brondello coached in the Footprint Center, but now she was back, this time on the opposing side.

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Once the love and support rained down from fans and players alike, she only had positive things to say. “Phoenix is always home; I just coach a different team now,” Brondello told reporters pregame. “I had a great eight years here.”

Every member of the Mercury starting lineup gave Brondello a hug before tipoff. Shey Peddy and Diana Taurasi deeply embraced their former coach. It hasn’t been solely what Brondello provides for her players on the court, but off the court as well.

Peddy played two seasons for Brondello and averaged 4.2 points and 1.2 steals per game. Taurasi played for Brondello for all eight of Brondello’s seasons in Phoenix and averaged 17.8 points per game (excluding the 2019 season, when she missed all but six games due to injury). She explained the bond that formed between herself and Brondello:

“I had spent 10 years with Sandy, you know, eight years here … [and] two more years in Russia, and when someone’s in your life for that long, 10 years, not only on the basketball court or off the court, you know you have a lot of memories.”

Taurasi smiled while reflecting on some of those memories, including watching Brondello win her first championship and seeing Brondello’s son Brody grow up. Those are memories that will stick with Taurasi forever.

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Looking back at Brondello’s Phoenix career

Brondello saying that she “had a great eight years” in Phoenix is quite an understatement. Brondello took the Phoenix head coaching job in 2014 and didn’t look back. After the Mercury went 19-15 in 2013 and lost in the Western Conference Finals, there were big shoes to fill. Luckily, Brondello stepped up to the challenge.

After starting the 2014 season 6-3, the team heated up. The Mercury won 16 straight games and had the largest margin of victory in franchise history at 9.4, according to Her Hoop Stats. Phoenix finished with 29 wins, the highest win total in WNBA history ahead of the 28-win Los Angeles Sparks in 2000 and 2001, as well as the 2010 Seattle Storm. Brondello took home the 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year award and led Phoenix into the playoffs as the No.1 seed.

The team lost only one game in its playoff run against the reigning champion, the Minnesota Lynx. Phoenix went on to sweep the Chicago Sky in three games to win the 2014 WNBA championship. That level of dominance wasn’t sustainable in the following seasons, but consistency was.

Taurasi expressed gratitude towards Brondello and the teams she got to be a part of. “We’re really lucky to be on some great teams with even greater players and coaches. Obviously, Sandy has a lot to do with that for a long time,” Taurasi said.

The Mercury went to the playoffs in all eight of Brondello’s seasons. They made the first round once, the second round once, the conference finals once, the semifinals three times and the 2021 WNBA Finals. Despite the outcome of the 2021 Finals, Peddy saw a side of Brondello she had never seen.

“My favorite memory was Sandy was definitely in the Finals. She was so excited. … We just [had] never seen her that excited and [it] just felt good,” Peddy said. “Because we worked hard last year; it was a grind. And for us to make that accomplishment, it felt amazing.”

Before that season, Peddy had searched for any opportunity. She briefly played for the Washington Mystics but got cut during the 2020 Wubble season. Then Phoenix came calling. Peddy earned the nickname “Playoff P” for scoring 12 points and hitting the game-winner against her former team to advance in the 2020 playoffs. She remains forever grateful to Brondello for giving her an opportunity.

“I appreciate Sandy. She was the first coach who actually gave me a chance and gave me some minutes … If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would still be in the league right now,” Peddy said. “So thank you, Sandy.”

Brondello appreciated the outpour of love she received from the Phoenix community. “It’s great,” she said. “I mean, I’ve made lifelong friends here, and that’s not going to change. I live in Phoenix for half of the year. And I still get to catch up with those people and have a lot of special moments.”

Written by Hayden Cilley

Hayden Cilley covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. He is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Sports Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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