NEW YORK (AP) — Becky Hammon despatched Sandy Brondello a textual content earlier than the WNBA season began with a easy few phrases: “That is about to be enjoyable.”
It has been for Hammon’s defending champion Las Vegas Aces and Brondello and the New York Liberty. Now when the 2 preseason favorites to win all of it meet in the WNBA Finals they would be the first former gamers to fulfill as head coaches for the championship.
With New York constructing a formidable group within the offseason by means of free company and trades with the additions of Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot, Hammon knew A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Grey and the remainder of the Aces had been going to have a brand new risk to their title protection led by her former coach in San Antonio.
She wasn’t mistaken. The primary-place Aces and the second-seeded Liberty will tip off the extremely anticipated showdown within the best-of-five WNBA Finals on Sunday.
“We have now a variety of mutual respect. I coached Becky, and he or she was one of many smartest gamers round,” Brondello mentioned. “Let’s have a enjoyable time and see the place it goes. We’ll compete however have nice sportsmanship; hopefully it’s nice basketball.”
Each Hammon and Brondello have already gained titles as coaches, however there may be a lot at stake on this one: Las Vegas is trying to grow to be the primary group to repeat as champions since Los Angeles did it in 2001-02; New York is attempting to win its first championship ever.
Hammon and Brondello competed towards one another as gamers and tried to win a championship collectively in San Antonio.
The previous level guards squared off earlier than Brondello retired and obtained her begin as an assistant coach with the then-Silver Stars in 2005. Hammon joined San Antonio as a participant in 2007 after a stellar profession with the Liberty.
Hammon has a variety of respect for Brondello and her husband Olaf — who’s an assistant with the Liberty. He was additionally in San Antonio when Hammon was there and spent numerous hours working along with her to hone her expertise as a participant.
“I feel Sandy’s a really a lot big-picture type of head coach and Olaf is that this behind-the-scenes tactician, in order that they work very well,” Hammon mentioned. “They’re nonetheless operating some performs that we did at San Antonio. Hopefully, these ones don’t sneak up on us and we’ll be prepared.”
Former San Antonio coach Dan Hughes, who employed Brondello as an assistant and coached Hammon, is thrilled that his two proteges are within the Finals.
“I’m very excited for them. I’m very comfortable for them,” he mentioned in a cellphone interview with The Related Press. “I do know the truth is that somebody goes to win and somebody goes to lose. I’ve been swept within the finals and swept to win the finals, I do know the elation and I do know the melancholy. when it doesn’t occur for you.”
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert says the Hammon-Brondello faceoff is a mirrored image of the league’s progress.
“As we witness Sandy Brondello and Becky Hammon information their groups to the WNBA Finals, their journey from the courtroom to the teaching sidelines is an inspiring testomony to the enduring legacy of the WNBA,” Engelbert mentioned. “Since 2019, we’ve tripled the variety of former gamers who’re head coaches and considerably elevated these within the assistant teaching ranks, and I’m so happy to see all their successes and contributions to rising the sport.”
Hughes just isn’t shocked on the teaching success Hammon and Brondello have had, or that their groups had been 1-2 in scoring this previous season.
“What I bear in mind probably the most was Sandy had — particularly as a younger coach — an excellent offensive thoughts,” Hughes recalled. “So did Becky. I leaned on Becky in a variety of methods too from an offensive standpoint on the courtroom.”
Hughes plans to be at Recreation 3 in New York however doesn’t have a favourite, saying he “undoubtedly will sit proper within the center and root for each of them.”
AP Sports activities Author Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this story.