Toliver Makes History by Joining NBA Coaching Staff
Former Terps Standout Now a Wizards Assistant
Used to making history on the court, Washington Mystics star Kristi Toliver ’09 is now making waves from the sidelines, becoming the fourth woman ever named to an NBA coaching staff.
The Washington Wizards announced on Tuesday that she will be an assistant coach for player development. Toliver, 31, who was a key part of the Terps’ 2006 national championship team, is the first active WNBA player to take a coaching position on an NBA staff.
“This dream has been a long time coming,” Toliver told reporters, noting her childhood aspiration was to be the first female player in the NBA.
Toliver is the Terps’ all-time leader in assists, three-pointers and free-throw percentage. In the 2006 championship game against Duke, she hit a three-pointer with six seconds left to send the game into overtime. The Terps won 78–75.
“(The Wizards) are all about getting to the rim and shooting the three,” she said. “And obviously I have some experience in the three-point game.”
Her shooting touch hasn’t diminished since being drafted in 2009 by the Chicago Sky and spending seven of her 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. Named WNBA Most Improved Player in 2012 and an All-Star in 2013, Toliver won a championship with Los Angeles before heading to the Mystics in 2017 and taking them to the finals earlier this year.
Toliver started coaching with the Wizards during Summer League and training camp with ball-handling and other drills, and impressed the coaches enough to be brought on full-time.
“She’s a special talent. She’s going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “She’s going to play a very big and important role for us.”
Toliver is planning to reach out soon to Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs, who in 2014 became the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach.
“I have a lot to learn,” she said. “Coaching is about relationships. I just want to build those relationships the right way, earn (the players’) trust.”