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He may have led the Sun to eight playoff appearances in 10 seasons, including two WNBA Finals appeareances, but coming up short of winning a championship was the main reason the Connecticut Sun let head coach Mike Thibault and his his two assistant coaches go on Tuesday.
"If we won a championship, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation," Sun GM Chris Sienko said in a conference call with reporters. "But the reality is, that didn't happen."
The Sun announced Tuesday they were releasing Thibault from his contract after the team lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual WNBA champions Indiana Fever this past season. Sienko acknowledged releasing Thibault may come as a shock to fans, considering the team had one of the best records in the league this past season (25-9) and star Tina Charles was named the 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player.
"Change is difficult," Sienko said. "But ultimately, (our fans) understand what we're after which is an opportunity to win a championship and at least have a better opportunity that we did in the past."
The Sun were a favorite to win the Eastern Conference this past season but lost the decisive third game of the Eastern Conference Finals by 16 points on their home court. Sienko called that result "embarassing."
"It was very difficult to watch that last game," Sienko said. "Even as just a fan. I sat there the whole time wishing it didn't happen, but it did."
Sienko emphasized the decision to release Thibault was not a hostile one and he praised the coach for what he's done for the organization.
"Mike has put us in a great position," Sienko said. "There is nothing negative to say about Mike, I need to be very clear about that...He's done good, but at a certain point, after 10 years you need a new voice and a new direction."
The news even caught many of Connecticut's players off guard as several of them -- like Tina Charles and Kara Lawson -- turned to Twitter on Tuesday to express that they were surprised that Thibault was released.
Sun CEO Mitchell Etess said the decision to release Thibault came from team executives, not the roster.
"The players didn't call for this," Sun CEO Mitchell Etess said. "This is a business decision we're making in an effort to do what we think we need to do to get a championship for the Connecticut Sun."
Since making the announcement Tuesday morning, Sienko and Etess said the team has already been fielding calls from interested candidates for the head coaching position. The team hopes to name Thibault's replacement within the next month and no later than when the WNBA Free Agency period begins in February.