Sandy Brondello's excitement and enthusiasm is infectious and not just on the basketball court.
Recently named the ninth head coach in Mercury franchise history, Brondello has been a coach in the WNBA for nine years and affiliated with the league for 14 of its 17 seasons (including her time as a player). Her leadership as both a head and assistant coach in the WNBA has translated to six playoff appearances, three conference finals berths and a spot in the 2008 WNBA Finals.
Quite simply, Brondello lives and breathes women's professional basketball on a global level.
PhoenixMercury.com caught up with Brondello for an exclusive Q&A on her new position, the type of coach the X-Factor can expect and her profound desire to lead the Mercury to another WNBA Championship.
PhoenixMercury.com: Sandy Brondello Head Coach of the two-time WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury. Has a nice ring to it, right?
Sandy Brondello: It definitely does. It is an honor to be a part of such a great organization that has had so much past success. I look forward to building some of my own!
PhoenixMercury.com: In your own words, what was so attractive about the position?
Brondello: Everything! The team has some very good players already on the roster which gives me a great platform to work with, has a great history with two championships, a vocal and supportive fan base and management that is one of the best in the league.
Hard for any coach not to want such a position.
PhoenixMercury.com: You inherit a team that includes Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner amongst other stars like DeWanna Bonner, Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree. What are your impressions of Diana and Brittney specifically?
Brondello: Diana and Brittney are two players who are game-changers in our league. Diana is one of the best players in the world and one of the most competitive players I have ever coached [Brondello is currently an assistant coach for UMMC, the team Taurasi plays for in the off-season]. She is one of the hardest working players I have ever been around both in her individual workouts and in a collective setting. She makes everyone around her better.
I feel Brittney has learned a lot last season in her first year as a professional player, especially considering she dealt with injuries. I believe we can expect an even greater improvement in 2014. She has a great future ahead of her if she continues to get stronger and work on her game. Having such a great play-maker and a big post that can dominate down low helps every team have success.
PhoenixMercury.com: What's one thing you believe the Mercury does well and one area you want to see immediate improvement in?
Brondello: I think the Mercury teams of the past have been very good offensive teams. I want to continue that and grow the team even more in this area by putting in a system that focuses on teamwork and movement to put players in the best positions to score. I want to continue to build on the defensive side of the ball and develop a tougher team both physically and mentally one that is built on playing as a unit.
PhoenixMercury.com: You've coached against the Mercury for many years. What are your impressions of Mercury fans, and the city of Phoenix in general?
Brondello: The Mercury fans are the best in the WNBA. They are so supportive of their team. It has always been one of the most difficult places to win as a visitor. The organization has done such a great job of getting people to games to support the team. Phoenix is one of the cities I have always said I could live in ever since I visited my friend Michele Timms in 1997 when she began playing for the team. I look forward to living there during the WNBA season.
PhoenixMercury.com: What will you bring to the Mercury from your past experience as a head coach for the San Antonio Silver Stars? What are some of the challenges you anticipate facing?
Brondello: I am a positive person so even though it was only for one short season coaching the Silver Stars, the lessons learned from the experience were beneficial. I know I am a better coach now from not only that experience, but also from the experiences I have had coaching all year round in the WNBA, Australia and now Europe.
I am more settled with how I want the game to be played but I also know that you have to play the style that best suits your personnel. I think every team will have challenges at different times of the season whether it is losses, fatigue or injuries. I welcome these challenges as long as we recognize that they can be a great tool for growth. We want to be a team that can handle adversity.
PhoenixMercury.com: Obviously, it's still very early, but what kind of coach can Mercury fans expect to see? The Mercury has been known as an up-tempo team for many years but became more defensive-oriented toward the end of 2013. How would you describe your coaching style?
Brondello: I want the 2014 Phoenix Mercury to play a complete game. You need to be able to compete on both ends of the floor if you want to have success. I expect us to run when we can, execute in the half court when we must and value the defensive end the entire time.
Most importantly, I want my team to be a cohesive unit on both ends of the ball displaying teamwork.
PhoenixMercury.com: Fill in the blank. Your goal as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury is ________________.
Brondello: To put a team on the floor that competes every day both in practice and in games. Winning a championship is the end product but I want the players to concentrate on the process, focusing on getting better every day by working on our/their game, having discipline to follow the game plan to the best of their ability and by playing together.
I feel if I can get the team to do this, the chance of winning is much higher.