PHOENIX – Phoenix Mercury head coach and 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year Sandy Brondello today was named the head coach of the Australian Women’s National Team, as announced by Basketball Australia. Brondello, who signed a multi-year contract with the Mercury in October, becomes the 11th head coach in Opals history.
“I would like to thank Robert Sarver, Jim Pitman and the Phoenix Mercury organization for their support in allowing me to accept the great honor of becoming the next Opals head coach,” said Brondello. “After 18 years playing for the Opals, I am humbled and excited about the opportunity to be back with the program and look forward to helping to build the team for success in Tokyo.”
“Sandy’s success in Phoenix speaks for itself and we have always considered her one of the top coaches in our game,” said Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman. “Her unparalleled preparation, high-level basketball IQ, and her ability to build relationships with players make her the perfect choice to lead Australia’s program. We are thrilled our head coach is now recognized as one of the best coaches in the world and we wish her the best of luck.”
A 2010 inductee into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame, Brondello takes the reins of the national team after a decorated playing career for the Opals in which she appeared in four Summer Olympics and four World Championships from 1988-2004. A native of Mackay, Queensland, Brondello grew up on a sugar cane farm and began playing basketball at the age of nine on a backyard court built by her father. Those humble basketball beginnings helped shape a three-time Olympic medalist (1996 bronze, 2000 silver, 2004 silver) and two-time World Championship medalist (1998 bronze, 2002 bronze), who played 302 games for her national team, third-most all-time.
Brondello played 10 seasons in Australia’s professional women’s league (WNBL), during which time she earned the 1992 Australian Player of the Year award, and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1995. Brondello then played 10 standout years in Germany where she won 10 national championships and the 1995-96 Women’s European Champions Cup.
An 11-year veteran of the WNBA coaching ranks as a head coach or an assistant, Brondello has been affiliated with the WNBA for 17 of its 20 seasons, including her five-year playing career with Detroit (1998-99), Miami (2001-02) and Seattle (2003), which included her 1999 WNBA All-Star campaign. Brondello was originally named the ninth head coach in Mercury franchise history on November 15, 2013, and quickly became the first head coach in team history to win the WNBA’s Coach of the Year after leading Phoenix to a WNBA-record 29 regular-season wins in 2014. In just three seasons (2014-16), she owns three appearances in the Semifinals (formerly Western Conference Finals), one Finals appearance and the 2014 WNBA title when she became the first former player in WNBA history to win a championship as a head coach.
Brondello owns a 65-37 (.637) regular-season record at the helm of the Mercury, the second-best record in the WNBA in the span behind only Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve. Brondello’s 65 wins are the most in a three-year period in franchise history, the most by a Mercury coach in his/her first three seasons, and the third-most in team history overall (Cheryl Miller, Corey Gaines). Her regular season win percentage (.637) is the highest for a head coach in franchise history (minimum one season).
In addition to her regular season success, which features the only back-to-back 20-win seasons in team history, Brondello is 11-6 (.647) in the playoffs, tied for the most postseason victories in franchise history (Gaines), and the second-best playoff win percentage (Paul Westhead). A season after rolling through the playoffs to the franchise’s third WNBA title, Phoenix swept a first-round series and returned to the Western Conference Finals in 2015 despite playing without Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor. Under the WNBA’s new playoff format in 2016, the Mercury was the only road team to win a single-elimination game—and Phoenix won two, ending the seasons of both fifth-seeded Indiana and third-seeded New York.
Brondello serves as an assistant coach to her husband, Olaf Lange, for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where she has helped guide the club to multiple EuroLeague and Russian League titles, most recently in 2016.