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New coach Stephanie White joins Sun ahead of pivotal season

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT- JUNE 5: Indiana Fever Head Coach Stephanie White on the sideline during the Indiana Fever Vs Connecticut Sun, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on June 3, 2016 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Stephanie White spent the last year working as a basketball analyst. But at her core, she always knew she was a coach.

White remembers having dinner at restaurants on the road after calling games, and she would move the salt and pepper shakers around like they were players. She couldn’t stop drawing up plays, even if spices and condiments were her personnel.

Now, White gets to trade her salt shakers for flesh-and-blood players as she returns to the coaching world, this time as the head coach of the Connecticut Sun.

The Sun are coming off a run to the WNBA Finals, where they lost in four games to the Las Vegas Aces. During the two previous seasons, Connecticut advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated.

“What we want to do is we want to bring a championship here to Connecticut,” White said in her introductory press conference Tuesday. “We have the pieces to do that. We have the mentality to do that. We’re going to put the staff together that puts the best product on the floor and put our players in position to be successful night in and night out.”

White, 45, previously helped the Indiana Fever to a title in 2012 as an assistant coach before she served as the head coach at Vanderbilt from 2016-21. Now she takes over in Connecticut for Curt Miller, who left to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.

With the Sun, she plans to run a five-out offense using players such as Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas, who can slide into a variety of positions to play a free-flowing attack.

“We want to be a fast-paced, up-tempo, free-flowing offensive team,” White said. “You have a certain structure that can allow players spacing, they can allow them opportunities to be creative.”

But before focusing too much attention on schemes, White is getting to know her players. The coach started reaching out Monday night, she said, and she will chat with each player, fitting the calls into their busy offseason schedules, with many playing overseas.

“I’m looking forward to beginning to build relationships with these players, to letting them know just a little bit about myself, who I am, what my style is, and go from there,” White said.

She will have to work quickly when it comes to building those relationships, and in turn, building a championship team. Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Jasmine Thomas all will be free agents at the end of the 2023 season, and Alyssa Thomas’ contract is up the following year.

The coach will have one season to prove to the Sun core that she has what it takes to get them to a championship. Otherwise, if they leave in free agency, the Sun will need to embark on a total rebuild.

Jones in particular is a player White will want to stick around. Not only does she fit the style of positionless basketball White hopes to implement, but she is also the kind of generational talent to build a roster around. Jones won the league MVP in 2021.

White is fully aware of her situation with the Sun ahead of the pivotal 2023 season for the team, and she’s ready to tackle it head on.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” White said. “We need to add a couple of pieces, we need to retool a little bit. We need to prepare because we know our windows are getting shorter and shorter to win a championship.”

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Jonquel Jones could be key to implementing White's offense. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sun president Jen Rizzotti sees similarities between Connecticut and Las Vegas, despite their contrasting personnel and playing styles last season.

Las Vegas made it to the WNBA Finals in 2020, and then the conference semifinals in 2021, before Becky Hammon came in and coached them to a championship in 2022. The 2022 team did not change drastically compared to the previous seasons, but Hammon was able to make the right changes to propel the team forward.

“I wish I could say there was a formula that we could follow that would guarantee us a championship,” Rizzotti said. “You look at Chicago, and they added a big piece in Candace Parker in order to win their first championship. And then you look at Vegas, and they subtracted a big piece when they traded Liz Cambage to create more open flow in their offense. So there’s different ways of accomplishing your goal.

The Aces also went from Bill Lambier to Hammon. Lambier had success with the Aces, but they didn’t get over the hump until Hammon took over. Rizzotti thinks the Sun could do the same thing with White at the helm.

“It’s going to be Stephanie’s job to figure out the actions that put our players in the best positions to be successful,” Rizzotti said.

KC Current GM Camille Ashton Resigns

KC Current GM Camille Ashton
Former KC Current GM Camille Ashton left the undefeated organization early this week. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton has resigned, the club announced Wednesday.

The staffing shakeup comes as somewhat of a surprise after the Current started off the season undefeated under new head coach Vlatko Andonovski, sitting second in the NWSL standings through 10 games.

No further details were given about her departure, other than that the club "wishes her the best in her future endeavors."

"I am thankful for my time in Kansas City," Ashton said in a team statement. "It was important to me to dedicate my time and efforts to ensure a successful 2024 season by building the championship-caliber roster that's currently near the top of the table. I am proud of what we have accomplished here. I look forward to the next step in my personal and professional journey."

Ashton, who played in the league from 2014-17, helped rebuild the Current roster, including picking up then-free agent Debinha in 2023 — the biggest free agency signing of that offseason. This past offseason, she brought in international players Temwa Chawinga and Bia Zaneratto

But the club has also encountered some rough patches throughout Ashton's tenure. Following her daughter's dismissal from the Current last year, mother of 2023 draft pick Mykiaa Minniss also accused the club of mistreatment during the preseason. While both the league and NWSL Players Association looked into the comments, no formal reprimand or consequences were publicly issued.

Players like Lynn Williams, Alex Loera, and Cece Kizer voiced concerns over what they described as unexpected trades, with Kizer adding that there was "no conversation this could happen." Williams, meanwhile, was informed of her trade moments prior to its execution while she was in New Zealand with the USWNT.

"There could be a lot of debate about that on its own, but at the end of the day, that’s the mechanism that we work with right now in the league," Ashton told reporters earlier this year when quested about the Current's player trade procedures.

While the club made an NWSL championship appearance in 2022 — the year Ashton came on as general manager — the 2023 season kicked off with the team firing head coach Matt Potter just three games into the season and hours before a road game. 

At the time, the club cited "issues around his leadership and employment responsibilities" as the reasoning, though players were reportedly confused with the decision making.

Last October, the Current hired former UWSNT coach Vlatko Andonovski as head coach, in addition to giving him the title of "sporting director." Whether or not that role overlapped with Ashton’s responsibilities as general manager was cause for some speculation.

NWSL Honors UWSNT Great Lauren Holiday With Impact Award

Lauren Holiday at nwsl impact award event
USWNT legend Lauren Holiday has long been involved with social activism off the pitch. (NWSL)

The NWSL announced today that the annual civically focused Nationwide Community Impact Award would now be known as the Lauren Holiday Award in honor of the National Soccer Hall of Famer.

Since 2021, the award has recognized one NWSL player each season for their character and contributions to community service off the pitch, according to a league release. The winner of the newly retitled award receives $30,000 toward a charitable organization of their choice.

"The NWSL is proud to honor Lauren Holiday as the namesake of this award recognizing exemplary athletes and their commitment to service and activism," said NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman. "Lauren’s influential work in the community and her outstanding character both on and off the field epitomize the values we look to uphold and celebrate in the NWSL every day. 

"I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition than Lauren and look forward to seeing the continued positive impact this program has on our clubs and communities with her example guiding our efforts."

In a statement, Holiday said that throughout her career she has always "believed in the power of giving back and creating positive change." A two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup winner, and former NWSL MVP, Holiday founded the Jrue & Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund alongside husband and fellow professional athlete JRue Holiday.

The fund contributes to programs that combat systemic racism and socioeconomic inequality. Holiday has also long been an advocate for legislation to help close the racial inequality gap in maternal health.

"This award is a testament to the important work that athletes are doing to strengthen and uplift their communities every day and I am deeply humbled to take on its namesake," Holiday said. "I hope it inspires others to continue their efforts in making a lasting impact on the lives of those around them."

Waylaid Seattle Rookie Nika Mühl Makes WNBA Debut

seattle storm's nika muhl guarding indiana fever's caitlin clark
Mühl spent her first few pro minutes repeating her college assignment: guarding Caitlin Clark.(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle rookie Nika Mühl made her long awaited WNBA debut in last night’s 85-83 win over Indiana after missing the first four games of the season due to visa issues. 

A Croatian national, Mühl had been waiting on P-1 visa approval in order to work legally in the US. While the paperwork came through Friday, she had to travel to Canada in order to get her status changed.

The former UConn star poked fun at the delay ahead of the game, walking into Climate Pledge Arena wearing a t-shirt displaying her approved visa.

Mühl checked into the game on Monday in the third period to a standing ovation, immediately diving over the baseline to save a loose ball. She spent her first few minutes of the game the same way she completed her career at UConn: guarding Caitlin Clark

Mühl, who had two rebounds in two and a half minutes, held Clark to five points, a rebound, and a turnover when the two were matched up. 

"I threw her in the fire," Storm coach Noelle Quinn said with a smile after the game. "It’s tough to come into the game at that rate and think that you’re going to stop the player, but I like… her physicality, her poise, her confidence. She took an open shot and I thought that was a great look for her. We’ll continue to put her in the mix in practice, and she’ll have opportunities to show what she can do on the defensive end to start."

An instant fan favorite, the UConn star donned the No. 1 jersey — in part because her usual No. 10 was retired by Seattle after Sue Bird, who wore it for her entire WNBA career, retired last year. Mühl's new number was chosen by none other than Bird herself. 

"I actually FaceTimed Sue and asked her what number I should wear. She took a day to think about it and came back to me with an answer of No. 1," Muhl said in a WNBA video posted to social media. "When I asked her why No. 1, she basically said 'This is a new beginning, but you’re not starting from scratch.' I loved that whole analogy and story, so Sue actually picked it and I love it."

WNBA Confirms Toronto Expansion Team for 2026

Fans at a game between the Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx in Toronto
Canadian fans asked and the WNBA delivered: Toronto's getting a team. (Jordan Jones/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA is officially expanding to Toronto, with the league announcing its 14th franchise early Thursday. 

Kilmer Sports Ventures has been awarded the team, said WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert at a press conference attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and others. 

"Growing internationally, I’ve been trying to think through next steps on a global platform," Engelbert told the Associated Press ahead of the official announcement. "It helps us reach new audiences and bring in new partners. The thing I love about going to another country is that the young girls and boys get to see professional basketball for women is important, too."

The CBC was the first to report on the expansion franchise back on May 10th. 

With the Golden State Valkyries set to begin play next year, the Toronto franchise will begin play in 2026. The goal, per the WNBA, is to then add two more franchises by 2028 for a total of 16. 

Toronto will play at Coca-Cola Coliseum, which holds 8,700 seats. On occasion, the team will play games in Scotiabank Arena. The WNBA has previously hosted sold-out preseason games at Scotiabank Arena and Edmonton’s Rogers Place. There are also plans to play games in Vancouver and Montreal, according to majority owner Larry Tanenbaum. 

This will be the first WNBA franchise outside of the United States, and joins PWHL Toronto as just the second professional women’s sports team in the city.

"Our Toronto sports franchises are thriving but, we have been missing one critical piece — women’s professional sports," Tanenbaum told the AP. "The world is finally taking notice of something that’s been there all along — the immense talent, passion and competition in women’s sports. 

"I saw an opportunity and knew we were in the right place at the right time to bring Canada’s first WNBA team to Toronto. And now we have, making sports history."

Similar to Golden State, the Toronto franchise paid a $50 million expansion fee. They’ve also committed to building a dedicated practice facility, but will train at the University of Toronto’s Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport in the meantime. 

"Women’s sports is good business," Tanenbaum said. "Just look around — it’s not a moment, but a movement and it’s just the beginning."

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