Briann January returns to Sun as coach months after retiring

Briann January played for Connecticut from 2020-21 before finishing her WNBA career in Seattle. (Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Connecticut Sun are entering a new era under first-year head coach Stephanie White in 2023, and her former player is coming along for the ride.

The Sun hired recently retired WNBA guard Briann January as an assistant coach, the team announced Tuesday, adding her to a staff that already includes White and assistant coach Abi Olajuwon. January played for the Indiana Fever while White was an assistant and then head coach of the team from 2011-16. She also returns to Connecticut after playing for the Sun from 2020-21.

January finished her WNBA career with the Seattle Storm in 2022, which served as a homecoming for the native of Spokane, Wa. White welcomed the opportunity to bring January on her staff after she was hired in November, saying she has wanted to coach alongside January for years.

“Bri is one of the hardest workers and toughest competitors I have ever been around,” White said in a press release. “She leads by example every day through her discipline, passion, competitiveness and humility. Her experience as a player and as a coach will impact our team and staff in so many positive ways.”

January was known as a defensive specialist at guard during her 14-year WNBA career with the Fever, Phoenix Mercury, Sun and Storm. The 2009 sixth overall draft pick won a WNBA championship with Indiana in 2012, earned an All-Star nod in 2014 and was named to seven WNBA All-Defensive Teams throughout her career.

She also brings extensive playoff experience to the Connecticut staff, having appeared in 13 postseasons of the 14 seasons she played. That included three straight trips to the WNBA semifinals in her final seasons with the Sun and Storm.

“It feels like a homecoming since I was fortunate enough to have played for Steph, the Sun organization, and in front of the amazing Sun fans,” January said. “I look forward to the opportunity to help this franchise add a championship to its winning legacy with this team and staff!”

January, 35, served as an assistant coach with her alma mater, Arizona State, for two seasons while still an active player in the WNBA. She said at the time that the experience strengthened her desire to coach, but she stepped away from the Sun Devils in 2019 to refocus on her playing career.

Now, January joins a Sun team coming off six straight postseason appearances under former coach Curt Miller. The Sun have made two trips to the WNBA Finals since 2019 but have come up short both times, including last year to the Las Vegas Aces. Miller left in October to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks, cutting short a four-year contract extension he signed with the team in 2021.

January’s appointment bolsters an improving player-to-coach pipeline in the WNBA, with six former players now serving as head coaches in the league.