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Who should the Connecticut Sun hire as their next head coach?

Shelley Patterson has been an assistant coach in the WNBA since 1999. (Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Two weeks after Curt Miller departed as head coach of the Connecticut Sun to take the same role with the Las Angeles Sparks, the Sun are still searching for his replacement.

Sun president and former UConn star Jennifer Rizzotti will lead the coaching search in her first major act as president. She joined the Sun in 2021.

Rizzotti is in no rush to secure a coach, she told CT Insider on Tuesday. While signing someone by Thanksgiving would “be ideal,” she wants to focus on finding the right candidate rather than speeding through the process.

Just Women’s Sports suggests three potential candidates that deserve a look.

Shelley Patterson

When it comes to experience and established success, no one is more qualified than Patterson. She’s been an assistant coach in the WNBA since 1999, with stints on eight different staffs. Patterson’s longest tenure was with the Minnesota Lynx from 2010-2019, during which the franchise won all four of its WNBA titles (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).

Patterson currently is an assistant with the Washington Mystics. She took the position in 2022 and immediately made an impact.

Mystics coach Mike Thibault told Winsider in May that one of Patterson’s biggest strengths is her ability to scout opponents and put together game plans. Several players have commented on Patterson’s overall “wisdom” and basketball knowledge, and rookie Shakira Austin said Patterson is able to point out the “little things” that other people may not notice.

The longtime assistant has been brought up in coaching searches before, most recently in 2021 when both the Phoenix Mercury and New York Liberty were searching for their next head coaches. Her résumé speaks for itself, and Patterson seems like an obvious candidate in any coaching search.

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Could Katie Smith get another shot as a WNBA head coach? (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Katie Smith

Rizzotti is interested in candidates who are former WNBA players, she told CT Insider, and Smith fits the bill. The Ohio State graduate played for the Lynx, Shock, Mystics, Storm and Liberty, as well as several overseas teams.

Smith is the lead assistant for the Lynx – who just signed head coach Cheryl Reeve to a multi-year extension – but she also has head coaching experience.

After serving as an assistant for the New York Liberty from 2014-2017, Smith was tabbed to take over the head coaching duties in 2018. She was in charge of the franchise for just two seasons before the Liberty chose not to renew her contract. The team went 17-51 during her short tenure, but Smith did not have the chance to establish any sort of culture or style in that limited time frame.

She deserves another shot at heading up a team, and Smith has been in the conversation. She was rumored to be a finalist for the Indiana Fever job before they hired Christie Sides.

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Berube has had immediate success at Princeton. (Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Carla Berube

This is a name that you might not expect to see on this list, and while it’s a long shot, Berube fits the Rizzotti’s criteria. In her search for the next Sun head coach, Rizzotti says she has her eye on former UConn players, and Berube was her teammate with the Huskies for three seasons (1993-1996).

After a short-lived professional career with the New England Blizzard from 1997-1999, Berube took an assistant coaching position with Providence for two seasons before she embarked on a 17-year as the head coach at Division III Tufts. She made four Final Fours during her tenure and was the tournament runner up twice, holding a 384-96 record.

In 2019, Berube headed to Princeton, where she had immediate success. The Tigers went 26-1 in 2019-2020 and won the Ivy league with a 14-0 record. They would have been in the NCAA tournament if COVID-19 hadn’t led to the cancellation of the postseason.

Princeton didn’t play the 2020-21 season due to continued COVID-19 concerns, but the Tigers once again went undefeated in Ivy play last season. They went on to upset Kentucky and future No. 1 draft pick Rhyne Howard in the first round of the NCAA tournament before being narrowly defeated by Indiana.

Berube’s long-term success with Tufts coupled with her immediate success with Princeton — plus her familiarity with the Connecticut basketball scene — make her a good candidate. Plus, after staying with Tufts for so many years, loyalty appears to matter to Berube, which might benefit her former teammate Rizzotti.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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