Thibault Named First Head Coach
Sun GM Chris Sienko introduces Mike Thibault (right) at a press conference on March 7.
Thibault, 52, is a 34-year coaching veteran with two NBA titles as an assistant coach/director of scouting (1980 and �82) for the Los Angeles Lakers, and coached his team to a silver medal in the 1995 Pan American Games. As head coach for the Omaha Racers, Thibault led them to the CBA title in 1993. Thibault spent four years as an assistant coach under George Karl in Milwaukee, and prior to taking on the coaching duties of the Connecticut Sun, was a scout for the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks. He will come on board with the Connecticut Sun immediately and is moving his family to the area.
�This is a very exciting day for the Connecticut Sun and our fans,� Sun General Manager Chris Sienko said. �After a thorough search of numerous highly qualified candidates, we are delighted to name Mike Thibault as our first head coach. He is an accomplished professional and an excellent communicator. His experience will be invaluable to our athletes as we strive to bring the best professional basketball experience to Connecticut.�
Thibault entered the NBA in 1978 as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers, and was promoted to director of scouting and assistant coach in 1980. After winning two World Championships (1980, 1982) with the Lakers, he became an assistant coach and director of scouting for the Chicago Bulls during a period in which the Bulls acquired John Paxson and drafted Charles Oakley and Michael Jordan.
�Being part of the team that brings professional women�s basketball to a region that loves the game and has great expectations is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility,� said Thibault. �I�m looking forward to the challenge.�
According to Jeff Van Gundy, former head coach of the NY Knicks, �I�ve known Mike for a number of years and the Connecticut Sun and the state of Connecticut are lucky to have his expertise and enthusiasm for basketball. I have no doubt that Mike will make the Sun a winner sooner than later. I�ve competed against and have great respect for Mike. I have a 7 year-old daughter and will definitely bring her to the games.�
Thibault�s first major task as head coach will be the 2003 WNBA Draft, which will be televised on ESPN2 in April. The Connecticut Sun recently traded one of their second-round draft picks to acquire former UConn star Rebecca Lobo from the Houston Comets.
From 1987 to 1989, Thibault was the general manager and head coach of the World Basketball Leagues� Calgary 88�s, earning WBL Coach of the Year honors in 1988.
In 1989, Thibault began a remarkable eight-year run as general manager and head coach of the Continental Basketball Association�s Omaha Racers. The Racers made the playoffs in each of the seasons (1989-1997) under his watch, bringing home a title in 1993. That same year, Thibault was named Sportsman of the Year by the Omaha sportscasters and ranks sixth on the CBA all-time coaching victory list (236 wins). In March of 1995, he coached the silver medal-winning USA National Team at the Pan American Games, and in August of 1993, he served as head coach of the gold medal-winning USA National Team at the World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. He spent the 1997-1998 season as a scout for the Seattle Sonics of the NBA.
The Connecticut Sun begins its inaugural season of WNBA competition at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 24th at the Mohegan Sun Arena when they take on the two-time defending WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks. The game will be the first of seven Saturday afternoon games aired on the league�s new broadcast partner, ABC.
Season tickets are available at the Mohegan Sun Box office or by calling 877-SUN.TIXX. Individual game tickets for pre-season and regular season games will go on sale in April. Mohegan Sun Arena will play host to 16 of the Sun�s 17 home games in 2003.
A record 2,362,430 fans attended WNBA games during the 2002 season, with an average attendance of 9,228 fans, up from 9,075 in 2001. The league currently boasts 14 teams, divided into two seven-team conferences. For more information on the WNBA, visit www.wnba.com.
The Connecticut Sun joins the WNBA under the league�s new operating model. In October, the NBA Board of Governors voted to restructure the WNBA to allow individual team ownership and non-NBA owners and to allow teams to be located in non-NBA markets. The league will feature 14 teams in 2003, with the Eastern and Western Conferences comprised of seven teams apiece.
Mohegan Sun, owned by The Mohegan Tribe, is one of the largest, most distinctive and spectacular entertainment, gaming, shopping, hotel and meetings destinations in the United States. Situated in scenic Southeastern Connecticut, Mohegan Sun is within easy access of New York, Boston, Hartford and Providence.
Quotes About Mike Thibault
�I�ve known Mike for almost 20 years and am obviously aware of his coaching expertise. He�s been outstanding at every level be it the WBL, CBA or NBA. His background is outstanding and I�m sure he�ll be successful in the WNBA.�
Jerry Reynolds, Director of Player Personnel, Sacramento Kings
�Connecticut is very lucky because they�re not only getting an outstanding basketball mind, but are also getting someone who has a great deal of rapport with players and is a great person. Those are lethal combinations for coaches and I know it wont� be long before he�s on top at the WNBA. He�s a great friend.�
Jim Les, Head Basketball Coach, Bradley University, former player and player assistant coach for the Omaha Racers and former scout and player development manager with the Sacramento Monarchs.
"Mike is a great communicator who has experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for the game of basketball; all qualifications that make him well-suited for coaching in the WNBA. I have no doubt he will enjoy the same success in Connecticut that he has enjoyed in more than 20 years of coaching at the NBA, CBA, international and college levels."
Ernie Grunfeld, General Manager, Milwaukee Bucks