The Phoenix Mercury are finalizing a deal with Orlando Magic assistant Nate Tibbetts to make him the team’s new coach a person familiar with the situation said Monday night.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
Tibbetts was an assistant coach with Portland and Cleveland over the past decade before joining the Magic two years ago.
ESPN first reported the news.
The Mercury will be his first women’s basketball coaching job and is the first hire for new Phoenix general manager Nick U’Ren. U’ren came to the Mercury from the Golden State Warriors this year.
New Mercury and Suns owner Mat Ishbia has already made a big splash in Phoenix, announcing plans for a new practice facility as part of a $100 million investment.
The Mercury finished with the league’s worst record last season at 9-31. They have a strong older core built around Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. Phoenix fired coach Vanessa Nygaard in late June and promoted assistant Nikki Blue for the rest of the season.
Tibbetts would be the second new coach hired in the WNBA this month. The Chicago Sky announced Teresa Weatherspoon as their new coach. Tibbetts’ hiring bucks a trend of former WNBA players becoming head coaches. Half of the league’s coaches played in the league including Las Vegas’ Becky Hammon and New York’s Sandy Brondello, who have their teams in the Finals.
While Tibbetts has no experience coaching women’s basketball, his father Fred was a successful high school girls coach in South Dakota.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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