Brondello breezes into Brooklyn: Liberty welcomes new coach to Barclays

Photo Credit: Stephen Gosling/NBAE/Getty Images

When the New York Liberty commence its second full season at Barclays Center in 2022, there will be someone new drawing up plays for Betnijah Laney, DiDi Richards, Sabrina Ionescu, Michaela Onyenwere and the rest of the seafoam, black and copper cast.

Sandy Brondello will assume the reins at Atlantic and Flatbush after being the head coach at the Phoenix Mercury since 2014 – a season where the Mercury were crowned WNBA champions. Her previous coaching stints include assistant roles with the Los Angeles Sparks and San Antonio Silver Stars.


It’s nice to have a fresh start.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Clara Wu Tsai, Liberty co-owner, was one of the participants in the virtual press conference and showcased the power of Zoom by doing so from her private jet. Brondello was in Phoenix and Lib general manager Jonathan Kolb spoke from the team’s facilities at Barclays Center.


I really just want to welcome Sandy and Sandy’s family to the New York Liberty family.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

The first thing Tsai mentioned when she gave her remarks is how she and her husband, Joe, have poured in money into the team as well as the league.


We continue to invest. We continue to invest, not only in the New York Liberty, but in the WNBA as a whole. We’re really excited about the uptick in numbers and viewership that we’ve seen all last year and we expect that momentum to continue and we’re definitely going to be part of leading that charge.

–Clara Wu Tsai, New York Liberty co-owner

Even though this is Brondello’s first time as part of the Liberty organization, she mentioned how it has been a group that she has maintained a great deal of admiration for.


It’s an organization that I’ve admired from afar for so many years of being in this league for 22 of the 25 years as a player and a coach. And I’ve been particularly impressed, obviously, with the new ownership.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

The new ownership of the Tsais has certainly impressed many a Lib Loyal since purchasing the team prior to the 2019 season. The Liberty, after being mired in a sale from MSG that was in limbo and playing two seasons in Westchester, are now in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center and recently had new facilities unveiled for the team at Atlantic and Flatbush.

Brondello lauded praise on not only those facilities, but also the Brooklyn area as well as the Tsais.


Not only do they invest with their resources, but really with their level of care.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

That care, Brondello says, was exuded in the conversations that she had with Liberty brass that ultimately led to her taking the job as its next head coach. She described taking the New York job as a “great fit” and believes she is inheriting a “really good team.”

Of course, in order for her to be a candidate for the New York job, it meant that she would depart her post in Phoenix where she had plenty of success with the Mercury.


One door closes, another one opened and I didn’t know what … was going to happen for me, but (I’m) very, very thankful and grateful for the trust that Joe, Clara, Ollie and Jonathan have given me.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I’ve had an enjoyable eight years here in Phoenix, and I’m going to, I think, could possibly be the best organization in the WNBA. So, I think that was, for me, it was more like, ‘Oh yeah, that would be a great job, a great situation with a great roster and ownership. I want to be a part of that.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

One common theme that was echoed throughout the press conference was a belief that everyone in the Liberty front office is on the same page. Brondello constantly referenced how the front office is united on what its vision is, short-term and long-term for the Liberty on and off the court.


I just loved our conversation that we had. I think we’re really aligned in our vision and I love … their investment, their passion. They’re passionate about the league and they care. They care about the whole organization.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Among the many things that the front office sees eye to eye on, Tsai says, is how it is important to honor the stories history of Liberty basketball. The franchise will play its 26th season in 2022 and has seen its highs and lows but has yet to win a championship.

Tsai says it is important to establish team chemistry both on and off the court – which includes allowing Liberty greats from the past to instill their knowledge on the current crop of seafoam, black and copper.


We are so aligned on so many things, but one of them is definitely building the relationships and the chemistry (of) which, of course, has to happen off the court as well as on. So, as many opportunities as we can create for that, we absolutely will. And it also extends back to legends, former players, former incredible stars … for the past 25 years. So, (you’re) bringing in their perspective, sharing it with the rookies. All of that is part of the whole legacy of the New York Liberty and also of the entire league.

–Clara Wu Tsai, New York Liberty co-owner

Tsai said that when all was said and done that she and Joe spoke to three candidates – some more than once. In addition to Brondello, those candidates reportedly included San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, who ended up taking the job with the Las Vegas Aces, as well as Los Angeles Sparks assistant Latricia Trammell (who reportedly remains a candidate for the Mercury opening).


I’m really excited for her to come into a new situation. She had such continuity over there (in Phoenix) for so long, that now Sandy gets to come in fresh and implement her culture, her identity from day one.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

It is a culture she intends to impart on a Liberty team that, by all accounts, had a successful 2021 season. Despite a late-season skid that nearly cost New York a playoff berth, the Liberty made the playoffs for the first time since 2017 – and nearly gave Brondello’s Mercury an unceremonious first-round playoff exit.

Eventually, the Mercury made the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, but Brondello says that Phoenix “escaped” against the Liberty and recalls simply how tough that game was.


You had me nervous going in, to be quite honest. Because I watched the Washington game and it’s more like … you found that chemistry … You found that fight and that commitment and it’s hard work. To be really great, it’s hard work, but you guys just, like, just did it together. You handled the ebbs and flows of the game and you really had us … I had to change, with all the switching and the aggressiveness on (Brittney Griner) and what you were doing on Skylar … it was hard. So, I had Diana (Taurasi) out, but … I’m very thankful for Sophie Cunningham making those shots.


–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello fielded a question from rising New York star Betnijah Laney about that game. Laney was integral in getting the Liberty to the playoffs and was even rewarded with an All-Star appearance in Las Vegas midseason. Brondello says it is important to ensure she, as well as another the Liberty’s signature players in Sabrina Ionescu are in scenarios where both can continue to flourish.

Brondello described Laney’s development over the last two seasons – including her breakout year in the bubble with the Atlanta Dream – as “quite inspiring.”


It’s more about just putting them in their situations they can have the most success. They get the most attention. So it’s putting it in action … and making sure that not all the pressure is on them because it is a team game. And it’s more about moving the ball until we can get a great shot … but they’ve got so many great skills with their shooting, their playmaking. They’re not just great scorers, they’re more than that.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Two of who the Liberty could rely on a lot to take that pressure off Laney, Ionescu, DiDi Richards and reigning Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere could be Sami Whitcomb and Rebecca Allen. Both are proficient 3-point shooters and both are familiar to Brondello given her time as the coach of the Australian Opals.

Both also had banner seasons last year.


I’ve really enjoyed coaching them and they’re just really high quality people too, but really good basketballers as well. And they’re team players and that’s what you need. I mean, they’re willing to play their role and their role well and it was great to see them have really good seasons last year.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Even though the team did manage to bring veterans such as Howard and Whitcomb into the fold last season, the core of the team remains young, which gives it a stark contrast to what she has become used to coaching veterans in Phoenix the last several seasons.

Coaching youngsters instead of veterans may give Brondello a chance to run a more up-tempo style of play.


Offensively, I think we can score more points, we can run more. I want to have a selfless basketball team.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I think we can use our speed a little bit more to our advantage to get those easy baskets

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

A word that could be heard on numerous occasions throughout the press conference was “adaptable” – it was a reference to how Brondello has been lauded for being able to change her coaching style to the players she has currently on the roster – or those Kolb may bring to New York via free agency.


She’s very adaptable. And she’s had generational centers in Phoenix and Australia, but then, also went through a situation where she didn’t and adapted her system to play a different style. And so, Sandy wants to win basketball games. We all want to win basketball games. The fans want to win basketball games.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager


I’m not a coach that comes in and says we’re going to play like this but you don’t have the players to be able to play like that.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty general manager

Those generational centers were, of course, Brittney Griner with the Mercury and Liz Cambage with the Opals. Of course, that was one of the weaknesses of New York in 2021 – lots of 3-point shooters but no imposing big that protects the paint and gets high-percentage shots in the low post.


There’s no Brittney Griner here – that dominant big post player

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


And then in the half court, it’s just making sure we have a good balance of in and outside attack. I’m not saying post-up. In and out means penetration. This is a team that, it was, I think was 11th or 12th in free throw attempts … We play a style of basketball that we’re hard to guard – a great 3-point shooting team, I think you saw that, that was fantastic. But … you need that inside presence as well because that will probably create higher percentage outside shots as well or even get us shots, great shots.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach

Of course, free agency could change things. Regardless of how the overall roster does look like, one thing that Brondello does want to be different from previous renditions of the Liberty is a particular emphasis on defense.


I am a defensive coach first and I think that’s an area that will be the focus from day one for this Liberty team.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


Defensively, that’s hard work. That’s commitment. That’s trust.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Emphasis on defense was a central theme of the years the Liberty had under former coach Bill Laimbeer. Brondello also knows that a team that emphasizes defense can create extra opportunities to convert defense into offense.


When I evaluated the Liberty, I just thought … the Mercury played at a slow pace, but … we could score a little bit better in the half court. But it’s more … the players that they have here, I think we can utilize them a little bit better with their athleticism, but that starts on the defensive end … You’re a great defensive team, you can get easy baskets in the transition phase as well.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I want to play faster, but that doesn’t mean turning the ball over and that’s something we’ve got to make sure – protecting the ball, that’s critical for us … the difference between a good and a great shot, making sure we’re getting paint penetration or post penetration out of movement.


–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Of course, the projections that could be made about how Liberty basketball will look in 2022 are based on how the roster is currently constructed.


We’re looking to be aggressive in free agency, but at the same time, it takes two to tango.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Only time will tell how things will play out in free agency. New York is devoid of the robust cap space that it had prior to last season’s free agent period that enabled them to acquire Laney and do deals where Howard and Whitcomb managed to trade the emerald green of the Seattle Storm for Liberty seafoam.


We’ve got a lot of areas to improve. And so while we were competitive and we were in basketball games, not winning those during a certain stretch, we can get even better with the roster as is, not to mention … possible free agent acquisitions. So, I look forward to a gritty basketball that wants to play for New York … and for each other.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager


With where we’re positioned in terms of the cap, we can create a lot of room if we want to. If there is a player out there we believe can come in, we can create some cap room to make that happen.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

One thing that Brondello is confident on is that this year’s Lib team will be better than last season’s that qualified as an eighth seed.


I know we will be a better team in 2022 and it’ll take a lot of hard work and commitment. But I think these players are ready for that.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

That is a sentiment that appears to be a Liberty-wide mindset. Now that the team has its first taste of playoff basketball since 2021 – and nearly upsetting a veteran Mercury team in the process, the outlook has changed.


I think we have players who we can play in different ways. We don’t have to play one way.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty

According to Brondello, the best teams are the ones that have those core players such as Laney, Richards and Onyenwere. Those best teams also are those that have role players that can come off the bench and play serviceable minutes in case someone from the starting five may be having a down game.


You look at all the best teams or the ones that have won championships … you have to have really good players. But then you have to have that supporting role cast behind it. And it’s more about clarification on their roles, but knowing that everyone is important – and that’s my job as the coach.

–Sandy Brondelo, New York Liberty new head coach

Kolb once used the term “hybrid rebuild” to describe what New York is doing – he says that term can be “retired” as the focus shifts from how to make the playoffs to how to become a consistent contender year in and year out.


I don’t necessarily think it’s a rebuild, but we still are still in a development mindset while trying to win games.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager


This is a really good (free agent) class where there are players that we think we can go after and upgrade where we need to and just put together a really cohesive unit so that there’s actual depth to our team and we want to make sure that we’re too top heavy and that we have quality WNBA personnel throughout.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Brondello herself believes the Liberty are “close to being really successful.”


I think it’s just that we’re ready to take that next step. For the past couple of years, it’s been ‘How do we get to the playoffs for the first time since … 2017? … Well, we haven’t had a winning record since then.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager


How do we establish continuity, how do we establish an identity that will carry on into what we hope will ultimately be a championship at the end of the day.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Kolb says that bringing in someone with the experience of a Brondello was a key factor in who the Liberty wanted to hire.

With the team having rounded the corner on its rebuild via last season’s playoff appearance, the time could be now to bring in a championship coach to take them to that next step.


That level of experience we believe is just exactly what our players need currently.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager


When we evaluated everything, and we saw how these pieces were fitting together, we saw that we were the sixth seed largely without Natasha (Howard) at the (Olympic) break. What do we need going forward? And for us, it was truly experience. It’s somebody that’s proven. … It’s somebody that’s battle-tested because no longer are we in a situation where the eighth seed is our goal. We’re looking for sustained playoff success.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

An element to establishing that sustained success the Liberty is looking for is establishing a winning culture. Teams that have built winning cultures such as the Seattle Storm, Las Vegas Aces, Connecticut Sun, Minnesota Lynx and even Brondello’s Mercury teams were successful year in and year out because of a belief that they could win every game they play.


It starts with … just building a winning culture and I think they’re on the right track here. This was a new team, really, last year. So many new players, really good players. Had a few injuries, but I think if you get them healthy, they have more time together, build that cohesive unit, add a few players that we know that can help us be better, I think it will put us in a great position to win more games than we’re going to lose.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Of course, no team wants to rush a rebuild. Teams that have gone almost immediately from rebuilding status to going after championships with not too many years in between have typically found themselves in scenarios where they are back to rebuilding for even more seasons after that.

Both Brondello and Kolb believe that while the Liberty are eager to arrive at that destination of winning its first championship that time must be taken to enjoy the scenic views first.


I want them to enjoy the journey. I mean that’s important. I mean, we do this – yes we get paid, but as many years as I’ve been involved, this is our passion. And I’m starting to connect to some of the players now … I want to … hit the ground running.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach


We have to build this the right way. If we build this with, ‘Hey, it’s the trophy at the end of the season or else,’ that’s not going to materialize.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Brondello mentioned that the process is as every bit as important as the result, stressing that the result, when done right, will occur as a result of the process.

A way that the Liberty organization hopes to get those players to enjoy that journey is by fully including its players in the process of building that year in and year out winner.


I want players to be who they are within the system.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach


It’s easy if you have a team-led culture with the coaches, everyone, the staff, including Jonathan, everybody. We’re part of this big family.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello emphasized that while she may be an incoming head coach that she is only one person. When all is said and done, she believes, it is tantamount on the players themselves to decide what sort of team New York will be and what sort of culture its players will foster as it treks toward that ultimate goal of claiming a WNBA championship.


We’ll have a lot of team building in the beginning and it’s … a team building where they’re taking ownership of our values. It’s not me – I’m not a dictator coach. I think … the best teams that I’ve been on is where the players decide, ‘Ok, what kind of team we want to be? … what are our values? what are our behaviors? That’s important because then that’s how you get the buy-in and that’s how … everyone can stay on track with what our goal is at the end of the season.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I like to see myself as a servant leader. I want to put an environment in place where they can continue to grow individually and collectively and, being a former player, relationships are important. I think that’s how (I’ll) continue to help them to be the best, not just players, but also people.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

If last season was any indication, this young set of Liberty players are all in on the journey towards that championship. New York started the season strong before eventually hitting a valley after the Olympic break, then peaking again with a win over the Washington Mystics to close out the regular season before the near-upset of the Mercury in the playoffs.


“I’m … glass half full. I always say … ‘What can we do today to be better?’

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

It is often said that when young teams endure moments such as those that it can lead to those teams becoming hungrier – and more determined to get over that hump the next time they reach postseason play.


I think that’s what makes a great team … it’s more like … the investment comes from everybody, the engagement. It’s like … signing a contract at the start of the year … with the players … It’s more like, ‘What’s your personal brand?’ Them deciding in front of the group what’s their personal brand going to be … ‘What kind of player do I want to be?’ And that’s their own accountability.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach

Regardless of how the roster turns out when New York takes the court for the first game of the 2022 regular season – one where they will host the Sun at home – Brondello believes that it is important to foster a culture that is based in players buying in to her system and values.


It doesn’t matter what kind of players you have, it’s more about are they going to buy in and are they going to play together. It’s all about … teamwork. This is a team sport. Individuals are not going to win it.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello mentioned once during the press conference that if there is a well-defined set of values that the team intends to operate by that it makes it much easier for a team to constantly remind itself of the values as being integral to reaching a stated goal.


It (enables) you to go back to it … because if you go away from it, you can go back to it, ‘Hey, we need to make sure … we’re not being a great defensive team, we’re not physically fit, we have to have respect for each other … There’s little things, but the values have to come out. What do the players … what’s important for them? And I … want to obviously lead them a little bit and I’ll oversee it in that regard, but what is important for them? Respect, it’s trust, it’s teamwork … all those things. And I don’t want to have, like, 20 lists. I want to be really specific about, ‘This is what we need to do. If we can do this right it will help us to be the best team and have the best experience.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

And she also mentioned how constant engagement from the coaching staff can also be important in establishing that goal in reaching that culture.

Brondello believes that a system of respect and understanding is one that has to be a two-way street. She referenced how it worked with Skylar Diggins-Smith with the Mercury – already an all-time great player but managed to thrive in key areas with Phoenix and how it allowed the team to reach its first WNBA Finals since 2014 last season.


Spending the time individually, on-court, video, but also just one-on-one conversation as well too. I think that’s a part of the growth and trust, respect goes both ways and that’s what I want to build up … I think that’s what I did in … Phoenix and you saw what Skylar was able to do and a lot of credit to her because she works so hard, but she wanted to get better. And I think these players … on the New York Liberty want to get better.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Success is anything but a straight line. In Phoenix terms, that path to success will encounter its peaks and valleys. In New York terms, arriving at that destination can sometimes be like riding a train that sometimes will encounter its share of bumpy tracks. And, at times, some of the blockages to arriving at said destination can be other trains.

For a veteran-laden team like the Mercury, the Diggins-Smiths, Griners and Taurasis have been through the ebbs and flows of a WNBA season. Young teams, like the Liberty can easily wilt in the face of elongated losing streaks. Brondello hopes to instill that the path to success is anything but easy.


We will face adversity. Every team does. And the difference between a good and a great team is how quickly they come out, how quickly can they learn and stay together.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach


They need to know each other … they need to know me. We are a family now and that’s … a part of the journey now – getting to know each other. It doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult times and they have to be coached, but I’m trying to help them to be the best players that they can be because in the end, individually that will help us collectively as a team and get us much success.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach

Ex-players are popular hires among fans because of the dynamic of former players being able to relate better to current players better than those who were only involved in the game via the coaching ranks.


My experiences will help them, because there’s times, there’s different situations that they’re going to go through. How do they handle it? Well … guess what, I’ve probably been through it.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach


I think my experience from the whole journey of 2021 and, that’s including handling COVID, being in a bubble and all those kind of things … handling different situations that come up in every season, basically.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty head coach

Brondello’s own experience as a player eventually translated to the success she has encountered within the coaching ranks. In many ways, as Brondello, Kolb and Tsai talked about throughout the player, it makes her a blueprint for what the Liberty hope to develop for its players away from basketball.

Given the youth of many of the Liberty’s players, they still have plenty of basketball in front of them before transitioning to what their post-playing days will look like. Kolb believes that having that open ear of a former player will do wonders for New York’s current players.


What we always try to do here, it’s not just about basketball, it’s about life. And … what do these players want to do when they’re done playing? And what does that look like? And I think having access to a former player that is now in a leadership role with the program as the head coach, it’s inspiring. And, so, the players not only inspire us, but I think that Sandy’s in a position to inspire them.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

The Liberty’s co-owner echoed the sentiments of the general manager.


Knowing that these women are going to have these lives after they’ve finished playing and how do we put them in a position to succeed after they’ve given everything they can to this game of basketball is really, really important.

–Clara Wu Tsai, New York Liberty co-owner


Everybody wants to win a championship. (We want to build) piece by piece toward that dream (which is) to make playoff … appearances first and, ultimately, that goal of a championship. But also, it’s beyond that as well.

–Clara Wu Tsai, New York Liberty co-owner

Tsai mentioned that one of her more gratifying aspects of her and her husband’s job has been the opportunity for them to develop connections with the players and also hear them out on what they would like to accomplish after they have put away their Liberty jerseys.


What’s been really wonderful is the receptiveness of the players to really develop relationships with each other and also with Joe and myself. And, I think it’s been incredibly rewarding to hear what their hopes and dreams are and to continue to really develop them as women.

–Clara Wu Tsai, New York Liberty co-owner

It is all part of how Brondello mentioned how she wants players to describe their experiences being under her tutelage once they look back on their careers. As was the case with the Mercury, Brondello hopes the Liberty look back on their experience under Brondello with plenty of fondness and lots of made memories.


Winning games is great, but I want them to look back in 20 years and just say, ‘That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It wasn’t always easy.’ But when you can do that, I think that’s when you have the most success.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I think this is a team that really has good people and they want to win and you’ve got the leaders there. But, for me … I think the start – before you can start talking about strategy, you need culture. So, you need a strong winning culture.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

The WNBA as a league appears to be starting to practice what it preaches in terms of fixing a problem it had before last season on the league being dominated by male head coaches.

Among the new head coaches now in the league include Noelle Quinn (Seattle Storm), Vickie Johnson (Dallas Wings), Tanisha Wright (Atlanta Dream), Becky Hammon (Las Vegas Aces) in addition to Brondello in New York. Phoenix is also set to announce its new coach soon and it is almost guaranteed to be a woman.

This means that when all is said and done, eight of the current 12 head coaching positions in the WNBA will be held by women – with the Sparks (Derek Fisher), the Sky (James Wade), the Mystics (Mike Thibault) and the Sun (Curt Miller) being the exceptions to the rule.


I think that’s heading in the right direction, former players getting that opportunity and … I think that’s great too … I’m a former player … organizations have to make the decision what they think is best for them, but I do find that encouraging.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I’m really glad to see the league trending this way and I’ll be interested to see how the hires go going forward.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Brondello as well was encouraged by the number of woman coaches getting head coaching opportunities in the last couple of seasons. The Liberty were criticized for the Walt Hopkins hire as many a piece was written lauding the lack of diversity in WNBA coaching hires.


We’re all coaches. We’re not female coaches, we’re not male coaches, we’re basketball coaches … But … especially for the WNBA, it’s good to see a lot more females get an opportunities because I think there’s a lot of great coaches out there all around the world. And it’s just about getting those opportunities and showing how good you really are.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Kolb did not say much about Hopkins, except that he believes that he did a great job during the two seasons he was at the Liberty’s helm in terms of developing its young talent.


This is the best league in the world and we’ve got some of the best players on our team.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello also had plenty of the best players in the world on her team when she was in the desert in Phoenix. Kolb heaped praise on Brondello for the coaching job that she managed to muster last season.


I honestly don’t think enough gets spoken about in terms of Sandy’s coaching job last year with Phoenix. It was pretty amazing when you look at where they started, where they finished and all the turmoil in between. I mean, to lose a Kia Nurse, a Sophie Cunningham in really key and critical games at a position of need and for them to stick together and finish the season the way they did and then go into the playoffs the way they did and find that level of success – that doesn’t happen without a tremendous leader at the top.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Brondello, at first, had to be thinking that last season, with the Mercury making its first Finals appearance since 2014, had to be a golden opportunity to run it back in 2022. But if things did not work out, she could leave Phoenix with her head held high given everything she did in the Valley.


I had eight great years in Phoenix. I had really great memories, I’ve got a lot of great friends. I have nothing to say about that organization, but … if there needs to be change, I totally get that … this is the business side of the game. But, for me, I just looked forward and this opportunity came up.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


Once, obviously things didn’t work out in Phoenix and New York was available, it was more like, ‘Oh boy.’ I mean, if you want to say that’s what, kind of, a dream job is, I mean that’s it.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Part of what may have made taking the New York job as a “dream job” may have been the camaraderie she has developed over the years with Kolb. It makes things much easier when the coach’s goals are in lockstep with those of a general manager – especially with free agency on the horizon.


Taking a new opportunity, a new head coach job, you want to make sure you have a great working relationship with that person that is forming the team with you. And I have that already with Jonathan. I think we clicked from day one. I think we were very aligned on what we thought this team’s potential could be and what we needed to do to get there. Look, he’s the GM and he’s totally invested and that’s great.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


I feel like I’ve been here for a long time already. Even though this is my announcement today, I just feel really comfortable. And the staff that I’ve spoken to behind the scenes – just a really high-class organization.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello described working with Kolb as “easy.” Apparently, that confidence in each other is going both ways.


I have immense belief that she’s going to take us where we want to go.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

While she may have had a smooth transition in working with the rest of the Liberty front office, one aspect of any coaching move that is always daunting is the change in cities.

It is not only about Brondello going from the Mercury to the Liberty but her family possibly changing cities, especially a near cross-country move like what a Phoenix to New York move would be. Brondello says that with her children still in school that it will be a “summer thing” with time being split between the two cities.


They love the WNBA, they love being around it. It’s been a great experience for all of us.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello’s arrival on the scene in New York could also be what the Liberty need to get fan interest back to where it was in the Madison Square Garden days. Anyone who watched or went to Liberty games during the James Dolan era clearly saw that the place drew a crowd on a game-by-game basis and that the atmosphere for Liberty games may have been on par or, at times, better than Knicks games.

Many Liberty fans who never missed a game in the MSG days may still feel somewhat disconnected from the team after the two seasons in Westchester and given that last season was its first back in the City at Barclays. But as the old cliché goes, winning cures all wounds and 2021 clearly showed that New York is on the up and up once again.


I think that this is going to be a brand of basketball that fans can really get behind. And I think you know if you come to Barclays Center there’s no place like it in the WNBA.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager


This is one of my favorite places to go and play. I think the fans are just so loyal and very supportive of the team and I know…COVID has changed that a little bit, so hopefully we’re going back to limited restrictions.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Those restrictions were reasons why when teams such as the Mystics and Sparks paid visits to Barclays last season that beloved former Liberty such as Tina Charles and Amanda Zahui B. may not have received the raucous receptions from a packed Atlantic & Flatbush that they would have typically received.

Kolb also believes that pandemic-induced limits on fan attendance also took some of the steam out of the Liberty’s hot start that they embarked on in 2021.


Assuming that the regulations are where we need them to be … I felt that put a damper on the start last year.

–Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty general manager

Winning is definitely one way to restore fan interest, but another is to be visible within the Tri-State community. The Liberty have consistently established a reputation as being one of the most community-oriented franchises in the WNBA and Brondello hopes to be part of that once she has a chance to fully embrace New York.


I am Australian … I’m very easygoing, I’m a country girl. I enjoy those kind of relationships, getting to know each other … That’s important for us. It’s not just about playing basketball, it’s bigger than that. We want that fan engagement because that’s important. That’s how we grow, obviously, not just our team but the whole WNBA. Getting out in the community – that’s important for me and I think that’s part of the vision – it’s not just winning championships, but it’s about, obviously, getting great people here in the organization, developing a strong culture and having a fanbase that’s going to be really proud of the way that we play.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

The Liberty will be entering its 26th season, and despite some early close calls are still an Original Eight franchise devoid of a WNBA championship. Could the Brondello era finally be what gets New York to that promised land of a ticker tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes?


Our goal is to win a championship. I think that would be great for the Liberty organization, of course, but also for the WNBA.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

Brondello is optimistic that her new group of Liberty players will not only improve in the coming seasons, but that they will enjoy the experience along the way.


I think the future is really bright. These players are going to get better and better, they’re going to get used to playing with each other.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach


There’s ways that we can play that we can be really dynamic and entertaining – that’s what I want to get … players out there – I want to see them smiling and having fun … it’s a game that we love.

–Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty new head coach

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