It’s been a tough few years for the New York Liberty. Last fall the team made its first appearance in the WNBA playoffs since 2017, but it did so on only 12 regular season wins. After an explosive start to the season, the Liberty limped to the finish line following the Olympic break.
January 7 began with a snowstorm, but the afternoon brought sunshine as Sandy Brondello was named the Liberty’s new head coach. A former WNBA player, Brondello has coached in the league since 2005, spending the last eight seasons as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, which made it to the 2021 WNBA Finals. Despite her stellar record, which includes the 2014 WNBA Championship, Brondello’s Mercury contract was not renewed. The Liberty seized the opportunity.
“Ownership and management were completely aligned on the qualities and characteristics we were looking for in the next leader of this team and the next leader of this franchise. Number one on that list was experience…in the head coaching seat,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb, which is a solid decision considering the last head coach hire had no head coaching experience in professional basketball and only three years experience as an assistant coach.
Brondello’s goals are to have sustainable success and win a championship. Previously, the Liberty has succeeded after losing seasons when championship coaches Anne Donovan and Bill Laimbeer took the reins. One can hope the defense-minded Brondello can bring the Liberty its first WNBA title. The team has not been to the Finals since 2002.
“I’m excited to work with the talented roster we have in place and to put my style of play onto the game,” said Brondello. “It starts with building a winning culture.”
Brondello spoke about building trust and playing as a cohesive unit. She is excited to coach Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney as well as Sami Whitcomb and Rebecca Allen, who’ve played on the Australian national team that she’s coached.
“I know we will be a better team in 2022, but it will take a lot of hard work and commitment,” Brondello said. “I want to put an environment in place where they can continue to grow individually and collectively. Being a former player, [I know] relationships are important.”
Free agency is about to begin, and both Brondello and Kolb said the Liberty would be making some although not a lot of roster moves. “We have to build this the right way,” said Kolb. “It’s from day one, we’ve got a lot of work to do—on the roster, training camp, practice sessions.”
Brondello said the ultimate goal is to win a championship, but she’s more about the process. “If we focus on the process, the result will come,” she said.