Kristi Toliver is joining the WNBA coaching ranks for the 2024 season as associate head coach for the Phoenix Mercury.

A two-time WNBA champion and three-time All-Star, Toliver played for the Washington Mystics in the 2023 but tore her ACL in September. She has not formally announced her retirement, though her move to the Mercury bench would seem to signal a career transition.

Toliver, 36, brings ample WNBA experience to her new role as an assistant to Mercury head coach Nate Tibbetts, who came to the team with no women’s basketball experience. Tibbetts was hired in October to succeed interim head coach Nikki Blue, who took the helm after Phoenix fired head coach Vanessa Nygaard in June.

In Toliver’s 14 seasons in the WNBA, she played for the Mystics, the Los Angeles Sparks and the Chicago Sky. She won titles with the Mystics in 2019 and with the Sparks in 2016, and she was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player in 2012.

Toliver also brings coaching experience, as she spent four seasons as an NBA assistant coach. She became the first active WNBA player to do so in 2018, when she joined Scott Brooks’ staff with the Washington Wizards. And then she spent two seasons on Jason Kidd’s staff with the Dallas Mavericks.

Kristi Toliver spent two years as an assistant coach for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

With injured players making their returns to the court, the Washington Mystics look like a completely different team compared to just weeks ago.

For the first time since early June, Washington has a healthy roster. Elena Delle Donne and Shakira Austin, who both missed significant time with injuries, are back on the court. And in Tuesday’s 83-72 win over the Lynx, not a single name was listed on the injury report.

“It was just a really dope moment,” Natasha Cloud told the Washington Post. “We’ve been through f—ing hell.

“It was a rough month and a half [of] playing down numbers, playing crazy lineups, having to adjust in a lot of minutes. So just to have everyone back [when] we’re making this playoff push and we’re really starting to peak and putting some wins together, it’s like the sweetest moment of the season for me right now.”

Kristi Toliver also made her return Tuesday, playing for the first time since June 16 after suffering from plantar fasciitis. And while Toliver, Delle Donne, Austin and Ariel Atkins remain on minute restrictions, it’s a step in the right direction.

With Tuesday’s win, the Mystics leapfrogged the Lynx into the fifth playoff spot. The Mystics (17-18) now hold a half-game lead on Minnesota and Atlanta with five games left in the regular season.

“It’s huge,” Brittney Sykes said of the win. “No, seriously, it is really big. We don’t want to get too caught up in looking ahead or thinking about, ‘Oh, well, if these teams win, if we win it, if we lose, they lose’ — it’s literally controlling our controllables.”

Of course, the team still has to juggle its returning players and monitor their progress. But the Mystics could be coming together at just the right time.

“It was good to have options,” head coach Eric Thibault said. “It feels a little choppy yet, kind of because I’m putting people in and yanking them out. We didn’t get a great rhythm, but we made some shots. Made some shots late in the clock, which was probably the difference in the game. We’ve been on the wrong end of a couple of those. We kept defending. I don’t know if we win this game earlier in the season.”

Kristi Toliver has a new gig.

The Dallas Mavericks have hired the two-time WNBA champion as an assistant coach. Toliver previously spent parts of two seasons as an assistant on the Washington Wizards’ staff.

Toliver’s current contract with the Los Angeles Sparks runs through the 2022 season. The job would not impact her WNBA playing career.

Toliver, 34, has averaged 9.5 points and 2.9 assists in 16 games for the Sparks this season. The guard, in her 12th season in the WNBA, signed a three-year contract with the Sparks last year after winning a title with the Washington Mystics. She played her first games with the team this year after opting out of the 2020 bubble season.

Toliver tweeted on Thursday that she was “thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to get to work.”