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Sun introduce their new head coach Stephanie White

Stephanie White, left, is the new head coach of the Connecticut Sun with the president of the team, Jennifer Rizzotti, right. (Photo courtesy Connecticut Sun)

The expectations haven’t changed for the Connecticut Sun, who still have an eye on winning the franchise’s first WNBA championship.

But the leadership is changing. Curt Miller, the two-time WNBA coach of the year who led the Sun to WNBA finals twice (2019, 2022), left the team in October to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.

Team president Jennifer Rizzotti hired former Indiana Fever head coach Stephanie White, who won played in the league for five seasons and won a NCAA championship with Purdue in 1999.

White and Rizzotti met with the media earlier this week at the Mohegan Sun Arena to discuss the upcoming season with the Sun, who lost to the Las Vegas Aces, 3-1 in the WNBA finals in September. Under Miller, the Sun were a pesky defensive-minded squad that dominated the paint with WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones (2021) and Sixth Man of the Year Brionna Jones (2021).

“This franchise has competed for championships year after year,” White said. “We want to bring a championship here to Connecticut. We have the pieces here to do that. We have the mentality to do that. We’re going to put a staff together that puts the best product on the floor and puts our players in a position to be successful, night in and night out.”

According to the website Her Hoop Stats, the Sun have six players currently under contract – veterans Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones, Jasmine Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, and youngsters Nia Clouden and DiJonai Carrington.

Brionna Jones, Courtney Williams and Natisha Hiedemann are unrestricted free agents.

“We need to get a few additional pieces to (add to this) great core here,” White said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to add a few tools. We need to prepare. We know our window is getting shorter and shorter to win a championship.”

Miller found success with defense, which meant grinding out some victories.

“Ultimately, we want to be a fast-paced, up-tempo, free-flowing team,” White said. “At the end of the day, you want it to be simple enough to have them create plays. The pieces we have here are versatile. They are hungry. They are unselfish.”

White loves the grit of this team, which is sparked by Alyssa Thomas. “You can’t underestimate how fare that will take you,” White said. “We’re talking about some of the best players in the world that night in and night out claw and scrap to be the best they can be.”

Miller was the head coach and general manager with the Sun. White will be only the coach and Rizzotti is currently looking to hire a general manager.

When Miller left, she knew she wanted to separate the two positions. With the salary cap, free agency, the collective bargaining agreement, it’s too much for one person to do both jobs, Rizzotti said.

“When you look at the last two WNBA champions, you see a style that really fits where the game has evolved,” Rizzotti said. “Having guards that create shots for themselves and their teammates, play off ball screens and hand off the action. It is being able to spread the floor with three-point shooting, which hasn’t particularly been a strength of ours. But we’ve been really good because we dominate rebounding, defensively and in the post. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel.”

One of the aspects that made White an attractive candidate for the Sun was her experience as a player in college and in the league (five years with Indiana).

Rizzotti said that she and assistant GM Morgan Tuck spoke with the players about what they were looking for in a new head coach and one of their requests was to be led by a former player.

“She gets that players win championships,” Rizzotti said. “As a former player herself, she knows it will be her job to bring in the right pieces to help us with a championship. It is her job to put our players in a position to be successful and at the end of the day, get out of their way and let them win.”

The Sun had the best record (26-6) in the league in 2021 and have made the WNBA playoffs for the past six years.

Most recently, White spent two seasons as the head coach of the Indiana Fever (2015, 2016), compiling an overall record of 37-31 and playoff record of 6-6, including a trip to the 2015 WNBA finals and a 2016 postseason berth.

Prior to becoming a head coach for the Fever, White spent four seasons as an assistant coach (2011-2014), most notably helping lead Indiana to their first WNBA championship in 2012.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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