A coach on the floor, a coach on the sideline, a coach is a coach is a coach.
Sparks point guard Krisit Toliver is primed to join the Dallas Mavericks as an assistant coach, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and confirmed by Toliver herself Thursday after her team’s 66-64 victory Thursday over the Atlanta Dream.
“First I want to congratulate us for winning this game,” said Toliver after the Sparks’ third consecutive victory. “As far as (head coach) Jason (Kidd) and the Mavs, super excited. It is a great opportunity that I’m excited to be about — to be a part of. Jason, obviously, as a player, Hall of Famer, great coach and somebody that I’m gonna learn a lot from. Him and the entire staff.
“I’m just happy for the opportunity to be back in the NBA and then continue to grow as a coach in that position. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ll continue to be that sponge and offer all I can to that team. Obviously excited to be alongside Luka (Doncic) and company, great team, great players, just couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.
Toliver — who is signed on with the Sparks through 2022 — also spent parts of two seasons on the Washington Wizards’ coaching staff while she was a member of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
“Kristi, we’re just happy for her,” said Derek Fisher, the former Laker star who’s in his third season coaching the Sparks. “She’s very very intentional about her love and passion for the game, and continue to be a part of it in a major way and to have an opportunity like that in Dallas is amazing, it’s great.
“And I think the growth and the evolution of coaching and teaching and hopefully us continuing to get beyond labels in terms of gender and color and we’re just all trying to do right by the game of basketball. And Kristi is that type of player, that type of person and I think she’s gonna be a great coach as well.”
Toliver, 34, has won WNBA titles with the Sparks and Mystics. This season, her 12th in the WNBA, she’s averaging 9.5 points in 16 games for the Sparks. It was her buzzer-beating 15-foot fadeaway that sent Tuesday’s game to overtime.
“Maaan, first of all they would’ve been crazy if they didn’t give her that job,” said Nneka Ogwumike, a native Texan who joked that she and Toliver would be neighbors in the winter, with Dallas just four hours away from her home in Houston.
“Being able to play with a player like Kristi is amazing because you’re playing with a coach,” Ogwumike said. “And so I do a lot of asking questions when it comes to the things that she sees. On both ends of the court, she really lives up to what she teaches.”
Toliver says her position — point guard, like Fisher and Kidd — has helped prepare her to coach.
“We’re in the unique position where we have to see the game,” she said. “We have to know every position, we have to be able to tell our teammates where to be, the timing of things, I think it’s just overall IQ. We’re just, we are the coach on the floor and I think it’s just a natural thing for point guards to be coaching in leadership positions just because that’s who we have to be for our team night in and night out.”
The night-in, night-out part of never changes, Toliver said, promising she’ll bring the same mindset to Dallas.
“My job is to help our team get better every day, you know?” said Toliver, who starred in college at Maryland. “All the specifics, that’ll take care of itself. I’m just looking forward to getting there and getting around the team and things just naturally happen, I just let things flow as they should and we’ll see … the No. 1 job always is to get the team better and pursue a championship.”
For the record, Ogwumike said she plans to require Toliver’s championship pursuit to be two-pronged for a while longer.
“It’s obviously an honor to always play with K-Tizzle,” said Ogwumike, who played with Toliver on the 2016 Sparks team that won the WNBA title. “And, you know, I just want to keep winning with her. I want her to obviously shine as a coach, but she can’t stop being a player for me.
“Not till I say so.”
— Kristi Toliver (@KristiToliver) August 20, 2021
Of course she was also very happy with tonight’s win for her team pic.twitter.com/WIC0J5VeBg
— Chris Camello (@Chris_Camello) August 20, 2021
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