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.
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.
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.
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.