Kristi Toliver is ready for her opportunity on the Mavericks bench

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“They would’ve been crazy if they didn’t give her that job.”

Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike believed the Dallas Mavericks only had one correct choice: Hire her teammate Kristi Toliver.

On Thursday, the two-time WNBA champion confirmed with Sportsnet that she had been hired as an assistant coach by the Dallas Mavericks.

”Being able to play with a player like Kristi is amazing because you’re playing with a coach,” Ogwumike said while laughing a bit after helping the Sparks seal their third straight win on Thursday evening. “I just want to keep winning with her. I want her to shine as a coach but she can’t stop being a player for me, not until I say so.”

During the Sparks’ close 66-64 win over the Atlanta Dream on Thursday, Toliver passed Mwadi Mabika for No. 1 All-Time on the Sparks franchise three-pointers made list.

“We are just really happy for her,” said Sparks GM and head coach, and former Los Angeles Lakers point guard, Derek Fisher. “To have an opportunity like that in Dallas is amazing. I think the growth and evolution of coaching and teaching and hopefully us continuing to get beyond labels of gender and colour that we are all just trying to do right by the game of basketball. Kristi is that type of player, that type of person, and I think she is going to be a great coach as well.”

The 12-year veteran is no stranger to working in the NBA. In 2018 the three-time all-star was an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards.

“I’m just happy for the opportunity to be back in the NBA and to continue to grow as a coach,” Toliver said. “I still have a lot to learn but I’ll continue to be a sponge and offer all I can to that team and I’m obviously excited to be alongside Luka [Doncic] and company.”

Toliver is joining the Mavericks under the guidance of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, and former NBA star, Jason Kidd, who officially signed on as the team’s head coach in July.

“He is a great coach and he is somebody that I am going to learn a lot from.”

Alongside her two WNBA Championships, the 34-year-old is a four-time Russian National League champion, two-time EuroLeague champion, and NCAA champion. She thinks there’s a link to why lead guards, like herself and current Sparks coach Fisher, end up being coaches.

“We are in the unique position where we have to see the game. We have to see every position, we have to tell our teammates where to be, watch the timing of things. I think we are the coaches on the floor, so I think it is just natural for point guards to be in coaching and leadership positions.”

Toliver is signed on with the Sparks through 2022. The team is traveling to New York to take on the New York Liberty on Aug. 22 with the hopes of extending their winning streak to four games.

Read more at www.sportsnet.ca

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