Sports Commentary 11/21/12
First questions first, “Absolutely not, no way”. Pat Meiser’s words, not mine. “It’s not in her genes”, the University of Hartford athletic director responded when I asked her about any concerns about losing her women’s basketball coach to the WNBA Connecticut Sun. Jen Rizzotti has created one of the top mid major programs in the nation at the University of Hartford. I won’t question her ability to transition to the pro game and I don’t think the Sun would either. Rizzotti can flat out coach. She can flat out motivate players and she can flat out produce game plans. She’s a former WNBA player who knows the league and understands the pro game. With the overwhelming marketability she brings to any team in this state I’d be surprised if she wasn’t at the top of the Sun’s list, if she hasn’t already recieved a call. The Sun are in the market and yesterday, on announcing the firing of Mike Thibault and his staff, said a search for a successor was already underway. Thibault is the only coach the Sun have ever had in their ten year existence and he’s done just about everything a coach can do for a team. Just about. The one thing missing from his resume is a league championship. Eight playoff appearances, five conference championship series, two appearances in the league final, no rings. Yesterday the wait to see if Thibault can take it to that final level came to an end, primarily because, so far, the answer was no. You come up with the same answer when you ask other questions about Mike Thibault. Are you likely to find a better basketball man anywhere? No. Once you’ve run out of fingers and toes to count on are you likely to find better men anywhere than Mike Thibault? No. Can you name ten people who are better at explaining basketball, even to reporters, who always come away with a better handle on the game? No. Can any sports reporter who’s had the pleasure name three coaches in their careers who have been better to deal with than Mike Thibault? No. You can extend this list as far out as you want and it’s likely the number of negative answers working against Thibault will stay at one. The big one. No WNBA championships. He’s proven he can take any team to the threshhold, but the land of milk and honey doesn’t exist at the threshhold, it’s on the other side. With an option year left on his contract Thibault might have gotten one more chance with the Sun, until Indiana Fever star Katie Douglas, the former Sun star, went down in game two of the conference final, leaving the door wide open for the Sun to dribble into the championship round, where anything can happen. The Sun not only failed to get through the door, they turned in one of the all time playoff stinkers in the decisive game. There went the option on Thibault’s option. We haven’t seen the last of Mike Thibault, who was virtually unknown when the Sun signed him on the say so of some of the highest profile names in the NBA. He proved his value and then some as coach of the Sun and last summer he repayed their loyalty by rejecting an offer to return to the NBA. He’s a basketball coach. That’s what he does for a living. He’ll continue to do it because he’s good at it. Jen Rizzotti will continue coaching basketball as well, at the University of Hartford. I agree with Pat Meiser. Coaching in the pros isn’t in her genes. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.